Northern Illinois honors character and spirit of the victims


Erica Magda

During Saturday’s remembrance of the lives lost in last year’s shooting, speakers remembered the characters of the students who were killed.

“Dan (Parmenter), Gayle (Dubowski), Catalina (Garcia), Ryanne (Mace), and Julianna (Gehant) had character, and we are much richer for having known them,” said John Peters, president of Northern Illinois University. “The legacy of character in all its forms is what we celebrate today.”

The students who died in the attack all had kind spirits, said Nancy Castle, interim director of the honors program.

“We have seen character defined and exemplified,” Peters said about the year following the tragedy.

Gayle Dubowski

Gayle Dubowski was a 20-year-old sophomore from Carol Stream, Ill., studying anthropology. Her memorial page on the Chicago Church of Christ’s Web site describes her as a caring, kind and giving individual to whom faith was deeply important.

Dubowski was strong academically and was described by her professors as bright and a stand-out student, according to her NIU memorial biography. She loved to read and was constantly finding ways to reach out and brighten the days of those around her.

“If it rained, she’d run outside and jump in the puddles. When it snowed, you’d always find her buried somewhere, making a snow angel or tromping through the snow,” said her chaplain, Chris Zillman, according to her NIU memorial biography.

Catalina Garcia

Catalina Garcia was a 20-year-old sophomore from Cicero, Ill., studying elementary education.

She had a friendly, outgoing personality and was a “people person,” according to the Garcia family’s memorial Web site.

“My sister was our princess, our princess in pink,” said Jaime Garcia, Catalina’s older brother, according to NIU’s memorial biography.

Garcia was involved with various activities at the Latino Resource Center at Northern.

Julianna Gehant

Julianna Gehant was a 32-year-old junior from Mendota, Ill., studying elementary education.

Gehant was a Sergeant First Class who served in the U.S. Army and the Army Reserves for more than 12 years and came back with a desire to teach.

Gehant was a member of the NIU Veterans Club and decided to pursue elementary education after being able to experience teaching while in the military, according to NIU’s memorial biography.

“She was an intelligent, highly motivated young lady who served her country and came back,” said Jon Lehuta, adviser to the NIU Veterans Club, according to NIU’s memorial biography.

Ryanne Mace

Ryanne Mace was a 19-year-old sophomore from Carpentersville, Ill., studying psychology. She was an honors student who planned on pursuing a career in counseling after achieving a doctorate degree, according to NIU’s memorial biography. Mace was an honors student who was remembered by friends, family and NIU faculty as friendly, outgoing and intelligent.

“She was a good kid, funny and brilliant,” said her mother, Mary Kay, according to NIU’s memorial biography.

Daniel Parmenter

Daniel Parmenter was a 20-year-old sophomore from Westchester, Ill., studying finance. He was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and worked at NIU’s newspaper, the Northern Star, as an advertising representative.

Friends and colleagues described him as hard-working, dependable and always smiling, according to NIU’s memorial biography.

Parmenter shielded a fellow student from harm during the attack and prayed for them before being shot, according to a family biography.

“Very nice, always somebody you could count on, smiley face, never lost his temper,” Maria Krull, business adviser for the Northern Star, said of Parmenter, according to NIU’s memorial biography.

Compiled by Rachel Small, Alissa Groeninger and Colleen Vest