DeKALB — College of Business students held an event they called the Golden Heart Celebration to honor senior Trevor Wehner and alumnus Clayton Parks, whose lives were taken in the Aurora shooting Feb. 15. The celebration was held Monday, April 22, which would’ve been Wehner’s golden birthday.
Family members, faculty and students close to Wehner and Parks gathered to listen to tributes in honor of the two human resource students, and a scholarship was announced in their honor. The informal event was held in the Barsema Hall Atrium. Many attendees showed up dressed in gold to celebrate Wehner’s golden birthday.
Senior management major Abby Roemer was one of the seven students in Wehner’s Management 460 class and said at the start of the semester, they nicknamed themselves the seven dwarfs — with professor Mahesh Subramony serving as Snow White.
“The student team came together with our management department and NIU to find a way we could honor both students,” Roemer said at the event. “So today, on Trevor’s 22nd birthday, we want to discuss what a joy they both [were] with everyone.”
Department of Management Chair Sarah Marsh announced the creation of The Golden Heart scholarship and said the scholarship was created to honor the legacy Wehner and Parks left at NIU due to their passion for human resources.
The scholarship was created by the six students in Wehner’s Management 460 class and will be awarded to two students who hope to have a career in human resources. Marsh said two students will be honored with the scholarship at the Department of Management Awards Banquet April 25.
Nelson Caudillo served as the vice president of the Management and Business Administration Student Advisory Board while Parks was president. He joked and told the audience that this made Parks Batman, while Caudillo was Robin.
“While I was the vice president for [Parks], I was always running around all over the place and doing everything I could do because this man had so many plans in store for NIU,” Caudillo said. “It’s such a pleasure to have this celebration of [him] because it’s the kind of work and love that he put into NIU, and you all just show the love back.”
In addition to the celebration and laughter, sentimental tributes were expressed in honor of Wehner and Parks.
Joe Kidd, who had classes with Parks, said Parks had a golden heart and motivated him to keep going when times were tough. Kidd told the audience he and Parks both graduated in 2014, and it was the best class NIU has ever had.
“When I think about [Parks], I think about how people always respected him and how he became friends with everybody he met,” Kidd said.
Along with the tributes, attendees were served catering from Tom and Jerry’s Restaurant, 215 W. Lincoln Highway, where Wehner was a delivery driver for a year and a half. Attendees socialized while reflecting on their memories.
Tyler Countryman, who attended Illinois Valley Community College with Wehner, said Wehner impacted so many lives with how courteous he always was toward others. Countryman said he hopes to carry out all of the friendly and outgoing qualities Wehner brought into his life.
“I know that I’m always going to be thankful that I had a chance to be in your presence with that glowing smile and bright personality; [Wehner] will always have a place in my heart,” Countryman said.
Graduate student Daniel Ortiz created a painting to honor Wehner and Parks.
Ortiz said when his professors proposed he take on the project, it hit close to home because they were fellow Huskies.
The painting features an outdoor black and white scenery with a blue bicycle.
“I felt like I needed to embody their legacy with my painting,” Ortiz said. “Another way it hits close to home is because I’m from Aurora as well, where the tragedy happened.”