UCA shows gratitude to Huskies

By Jimmy Bryant

On October 26, 2008, the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) community suffered an unprecedented tragedy. Two UCA students, Chavares Block, 19, and Ryan Henderson, 18, were gunned down and killed while standing outside Arkansas Hall, a UCA residence hall. The two innocent victims were shot by non-students who were firing from an SUV. The shooter, Kelcey Perry, 19, of Morrilton, is being held by the Arkansas Department of Corrections and will be eligible for parole in 2035.

Word of the tragedy spread quickly, and soon the UCA shooting made national news headlines. An outpouring of sympathy resulted, and letters and cards from around the nation soon began arriving at UCA. Some of those expressing sympathy were the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Arkansas Tech University, Hendrix College and Northern Illinois University.

The students at Northern Illinois University (NIU) created a banner, made of heavy cloth material, that was approximately five feet long and three feet wide and covered in words of sympathy and encouragement from NIU students. NIU had been the scene of a murderous rampage on February 14, 2008, when a gunman killed five students and injured 17 with gunfire from a shotgun and three handguns.

A group of NIU students, led by NIU student and now alumnus, Justin Kuryliw, drove the banner from DeKalb, Illinois to Conway, a distance of more than 620 miles. The banner was presented to UCA officials during the halftime of a football game. Some of the comments from NIU students included, “Huskies feel your pain. You are in our thoughts;” “We know what you’re going through. Our thoughts and prayers are with you;” “I’m sorry that this is how we have become united, but we’re here for you;” and “Huskies give UCA Bear hugs.”

The students, faculty and staff at the University of Central Arkansas have never forgotten the great act of kindness bestowed upon them by Northern Illinois University. As we approach the ninth anniversary of the UCA shootings, we again say “THANK YOU” to our friends at NIU for supporting UCA during our time of sadness.

The photograph below is the NIU condolence banner, along with newspapers of the event, letters and cards of condolence, and photographs of Chavares Block and Ryan Henderson. THANK YOU AGAIN!