As a family studies scholar, I am usually quite particular about the use of the word “family.” I sit up and take note when the word is applied, sung, touted, disregarded, defined or bantered about. Are we advancing stereotypes? Are we being inclusive? Are we able to fully comprehend the emotions and connotations of this word we toss about?

Last week, I found myself relying on the only apt metaphor – family, of course – to describe the community of folks here at St. Thomas. Why? Because of Dan.

As you know, Dan Zamlen is a freshman at St. Thomas. He is missing. We are all reeling to understand. And are in a state of painful not-knowing. And are pausing. And are praying. And people from all corners of campus – and far beyond – have put their work and lives on hold to help find him. Walking the neighborhood. Searching. Scouring the alleys. Searching some more. Pouring hearts, souls and hope into finding Dan.


As I sat at my desk preparing for class last Monday, just hours into the news that a beloved student had vanished early Sunday morning, a sudden surge of movement drew my eyes from the computer out my first floor OEC window and onto the sidewalk of Cleveland Avenue. There, en mass, were hundreds of students, staff, faculty, friends, parents, neighbors and administrators walking swiftly but solemnly and holding white sheets of paper with Dan’s sweet smile on each. An hour or two later, I looked up to see it again. And then again. Search team after search team walked in determined fashion down Cleveland from campus and fanned into the streets, alleys, valleys and passages of our city. Many hours later, well into the windy and cold evening, I came across yet more armadas of students and volunteers on the streets and in alleys all over town. They each held that piece of paper. Steadfastly, they held onto hope that they were helping a brother in need.

The events of this past week have reminded me, yet again, that we are a family of sorts here at St. Thomas. We love and care for each other. We open our arms and doors; we lift each other up; we carry each other. And we put our prayers and bodies into action when someone – like our son Dan – needs us.

In this season of hope and life, may your prayers or efforts bring comfort to Dan and his immediate family. May it also serve to remind us of how our everyday actions create and sustain our little campus family. In good times and in bad.