I used to joke about the rally chant of the Delta State Statesmen. “We are Delta State,” the fans scream from the basketball stadium. “We are family!”
How could that phrase possibly intimidate an opposing team? Now, sitting at a campus on lockdown, I know the strength in those words.
Police Monday afternoon confirmed the death of my colleague Ethan Schmidt. We did not share the same areas of study. He was a history professor and I work with the journalism department.
What I know about Schmidt, a Kansas native in his mid-fifties, I know from the vantage of a basketball court. He used to show up to faculty pickup games dressed a University of Kansas t-shirt; Schmidt graduated from the University of Kansas with a PhD in philosophy in 2007. He'd have his son in tow and the talent in the family clearly rested in the younger generation, a fact in which the elder Schmidt was proud.
Schmidt, who directed the first-year seminar program and specialized in Native American and colonial history, had a reputation for being a good guy and a family man. Our colleague, Don Allan Mitchell, an English professor at the school, told the AP that he was "a gentleman in every sense of the word."
Despite being in a small town, I don't know the person of interest police have identified, Delta State Geography professor Shannon Lamb. Our paths never crossed.
But in a place where the local sports section of the paper is second in size only to wedding announcements, Schmidt's love for basketball was infectious and impacted us all. There’s only so much you can learn about a person through a sport, but as helicopters circle over the gymnasium where he used to laugh his way through games of three on three, there is a sense that today we are all on the same team.
At Delta State, we are family.
Adrienne Berard is the Writer in Residence at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi.