CU community mourns loss of student
Family and friends will be remembering David Parrish, a CU student killed while on spring break in Puerto Vallarta, with a memorial service scheduled for Friday, April 4.
Parrish’s death has sent shockwaves through the CU community. Those who knew him say he was an excellent student and person.
Parrish, who was a junior geography major at CU, was shot March 26 as he tried to stop two men from robbing his mother, Janet Graaff. She is a lecturer in the Leeds Business School and in the College of Engineering and Applied Science.
His family released a statement April 1 as part of his obituary.
“David had a wry sense of humor which continually entertained his many, many friends and a keen sense of aesthetics which lives on in the many photographs he has left us,” his obituary in the Rocky Mountain News read. “While the small stuff in his room was typically cluttered, the larger arrangement and alignment of things was well balanced and pleasing to the eye.”
At CU, Parrish is remembered as an excellent student with a kind heart.
Talking with his professors and advisors in the geography department, it was clear that Parrish was an excellent student. Parrish made the Dean’s list last semester for his 4.0 GPA.
John Pitlick, a geography professor, had Parrish in his introductory geography class, Landscapes and Water, back in fall 2006.
Pitlick said Parrish always sat in the front row of his class. Professor and student would often chat and have casual conversations before class.
“He was kind of a quiet kid,” Pitlick said. “But always very friendly. A word mentioned [in the office] to describe him was ‘poised.’ He was very mature for his age.”
Parrish never drew a lot of attention to himself, Pitlick said, even though he was an A student.
“Obviously, his performance in his classes showed the wheels were always turning,” Pitlick said.
Pitlick said that in his classes, he always tries to keep an eye out for students who might want to work with him as field assistants. Although he never asked Parrish, Pitlick said he was the kind of student he would seek out.
“He had that kind of maturity and interest level that makes doing that kind of work fun and productive,” he said.
Pitlick said Parrish set an example and embodied what it meant to be a good student.
“I don’t have any children myself,” said Pitlick. “But if I did they would be about his age. There’s always someone that makes me think, ‘Boy, if I had a kid like that, that’d be great.’ David was one of those kids, I remember thinking that. If he were my kid, I would’ve been pleased. It’s really too bad. Everything people have said about him is true, not an exaggeration.”
Parrish’s death has shaken many faculty members in the geography department, he said.
“It didn’t really dawn on me until this morning,” Pitlick said. “I came back [from spring break] and had things to do. It dawned on me later who he was. I was really taken aback. He’s a very good kid.”
Elizabeth Pike, an instructor and undergraduate advisor for the geography department, said she met Parrish back in fall 2006 at orientation. She also had him in a class last fall, GEOG 3422, Conservation Thought.
She said because her office is in a central location in Guggenheim, students often come into chat. Parrish was one of those students who came in regularly, she said.
“He had a positive attitude, he was always nice,” Pike said. “Not just positive in general, but he was positive about school, and the opportunities he was given.”
Pike said Parrish was interested in the “human side” of geography, and was very interested in international development.
“I think [Chancellor] Peterson put it well – he was the kind of student we want to have on campus,” she said.
Darla Shatto, an undergraduate assistant in the geography department, echoed Pike’s feelings. She said she knew Parrish for the past year, interacting with him when he would come to her office to say hello.
“He was very kind, very gentle,” Shatto said. “He had a gentle manner without being passive. We miss him.”
Pike mentioned Parrish’s close relationship to his mother, who he was defending when he died. She said he admired her and respected her for her professional work.
Pike said Graaff came into her GEOG 3422 class as a guest lecturer while Parrish was in the class.
“You could tell, he was really proud of her,” she said.
Parrish’s passions included traveling. In spring 2007, he spent a semester in Morocco with the School of International Training.
Cindy Kraft, the program manager in the Office of International Education, said Parrish studied culture and society during his time in Morocco. Additionally, he spent time learning Arabic and living with a host family.
“There’s no other way to describe it, other than a tragic occurrence,” she said. “Obviously he was someone who respected other cultures, and wanted to build bridges of cultural understanding. He was a global citizen. It’s such a loss.”
Parrish also had an interest in photography. Last semester, he entered three of his photos from his travels in Morocco into a competition for the Office of International Education.
A memorial service and reception for Parrish is set for 2 p.m. on Friday at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1419 Pine St. in downtown Boulder. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, people can make donations to any global organizations that give new, lightly used or reconditioned shoes to the less fortunate.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Marcy Franklin at Marcy.firstname.lastname@example.org.