The loss of our brother, Robert Patrick Atkinson

It is with a heavy heart that we report on the death of Rob Atkinson, our active brother and student at Southwestern. We are all praying for Rob’s family, and his extended family, as we cope with the loss of someone so special.

As more information becomes available, we will post it on this site.

Copied here is the communication from SU President Jake Schrum to the Southwestern campus community.

Dear Members of the Southwestern Community,

Tragedy struck the campus Thursday night when senior Robert Atkinson was hit and killed by a car as he was crossing University Avenue around 8:20 p.m.

Rob was a leader on campus and was involved with numerous organizations, including the Theatre for Social Justice group and the Student Peace Alliance. His death is a tremendous loss for us, particularly coming at this time of year.

Those who knew Rob and would like to gather together today may do so at 1 p.m. in the ballrooms. We will keep you posted as additional services are scheduled. As always, members of our Counseling Services staff are available in the Robertson Center for those who need help coping with this tragedy.

Please keep Rob’s family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.

Jake B. Schrum

Local news coverage: news report story and video

Rob in his own words:

Students Unite for a Department of Peace
by Rob Atkinson

My motivation in doing political and social activism work is rooted in a strong spiritual desire for strengthening community identity and creating a normalization of compassion, which can be significantly furthered through political work. Along with being very involved in the Student Peace Alliance, I practice the Lakota spiritual tradition and am president of a Native American student organization on my campus, I am a musician, painter, and public speaker. I have also studied urban environmental sustainability through a collective I lived at last summer, and am looking forward to a possible internship this next summer working with nonprofit violence-prevention groups in central Texas. For me, it all boils down to political and social activism as a vehicle of spiritual integrity, and the deep joy that emerges when our abstract visions for a good world actualize into realistic and concrete initiatives.
—Rob Atkinson

Rob Atkinson – Teaching Peace Conference – Part 1

16 thoughts on The loss of our brother, Robert Patrick Atkinson

  1. I’m Rob’s father. I want to thank Kappa Sig for providing a place where Rob felt a sense of community and belonging. We phoned him on his birthday, last Tuesday, Dec. 2, and he was at the Sig house at the time, having a good time. Thanks for being part of Rob’s “tribe”.

    I know Rob would be happy that you linked to his Student Peace Alliance video and Yes Magazine article. One of his strongest passions was working to establish a Cabinet-level Department of Peace. Thanks for honoring this part of him so visibly.

    Cherish those you love. Love as much as you can. Right now, because right now is all we have.

    In peace,
    John Atkinson

  2. To the brothers of Kappa Sigma Iota Chapter–our hearts and prayers are with you in the loss of this great young man.

    I had the privilege of working with Rob through his work in the Student Peace Alliance. He was truly amazing–an inspiration, funny, thoughtful, wise, and so passionate about life. I know you all will miss him deeply, as will we.

    He did me the honor recently of asking me to write a letter of recommendation for him. In it, I shared that, “He has challenged me to be better at what I do every step of the way–not by demanding or cajoling, but because his own commitment to excellence inspires the same in me.” And that, “I have worked with many young people in my diverse career. Those who I’ve met in the Campaign for a U.S. Department of Peace have a depth of commitment to service unlike any I’ve ever seen. But even among this elite group, Rob is unique in his clarity and values-driven approach to life. With him, it’s not about image; it’s not about money; it’s not about power. It’s about connection, inspiration, knowledge, and commitment to the greater good.”

    Congratulations on having such a wonderful man as your brother. May we all strive to be the very best that we can, and thus carry on Rob’s life work. He was lost too soon.

  3. I knew Robert through his Dad John. John is in my mens group. I got to spend time with Robert and grew to see him for the unique and positive young man he became. I will miss his presence and hearing John share about his beloved son. To all the students who are grieving his loss I say this: Live is precious, cherish it. I’m sure Robert would agree.

    In love,
    Jeff Kahn

  4. My heart just broke in two, only to reveal the great love and respect that I hold for Rob. I am so sorry for your loss.

    (I am a state co-ordinator for the Department of Peace campaign in New Hampshire. I have had the brief honor of knowing and being inspired by Rob at Student Peace Alliance/Peace Alliance events.)

    May he go on to do even greater work from elsewhere.
    So sad to lose him. I am sorry for the loss of your Brother.

    In Peace, jan mercuri grossman NH

  5. Hi
    I am a woman living in The Netherlands, and read through the prayer circle. Please know that i have seen the video on your website and will send positive and an embracing circle to you.
    I am especially touched by the gesture that he is giving his organs/bones to those who need it, so he is helpful even after he left his body.
    regards Veronique Kilian

  6. My apologies as these comments were held in moderation for three days. I’ve adjusted our settings so future comments will post immediately. On behalf of the fraternity, we are thankful for sharing your love for Rob here.


  7. I only “met” Rob last month by telephone & email, as part of our work on a research team for the Dept of Peace Campaign. Even so, I was devastated when I received the news of his untimely passing. I pray that Rob’s spirit will live on in the lives of those he touched.

    Theresa McGallicher
    Niamey, Niger

  8. I very much wish I had met this young man. When I was on a ride for Peace, his parents hosted me. They had so much love for Rob, not just in the way parents do, but in the way friends do as well. I could tell that collectively, they made one another better people. It was an inspiration to meet them and to know Rob was working for peace and justice.
    Blessings to all, my thoughts are with you in this time of grieving.

  9. My wife and I were privileged to work and share quality time with Rob each summer for the past three years at the Lakota Sundance prayer ceremony on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Rob was a very special person, highly enlightened, a friend to all he met. I will always remember and appreciate our one-on-one talks about spirituality and nature and the meaning of life and making a positive difference in the world. He was very well advanced on his spiritual path for such a young guy. His work as a firekeeper at Sundance and his friendly spirit with all those he met and his work on behalf of the students for peace will be a lasting memory to his name. He was here on this earth for such a short time but he made a positive difference in the lives of many, many people. He truly lived as a loving brother to everyone he met. He will be missed. We take solace knowing that his spirit lives on. Mitauye’ Oyasin (“We are all related”)

    Bill & Linda (Golden Star Woman) Arena
    Emeryville, CA

  10. I am Rob’s mom. Although I very deeply grieve Rob’s loss to us (all of us), I am truly grateful to those, like all of you, who loved our precious son and were inspired by him. The more we all take what Rob has given us into our hearts, the better this world will be. Please honor him by being the best you can be, and loving the most you can love. Namaste.

  11. I am truly sad for all of you. I did not know Rob, but have heard about him through friends of his parents. It seems unfair to lose such a brilliant soul. My thoughts and prayers are with all that are grieving him.

  12. This is long overdue, it was hard for me to accept that our brother no longer walks with us anymore. Perhaps he is above us all looking down, or perhaps his soul still is here on earth touching the hearts of those in need. He was always, always looking out for everyone around him. I ran with him in high school at Junipero Serra where I liked to pretend I lead him. The truth be told he always lead me. I, the team captain, looked to him for his confidence and unconventional ways of making our sometimes grueling workouts bearable. He always had a smile even through injury and hard aches. He always spoke kindly even to those whom no one liked. He was always wishful in his endeavors and no one could ever break him down. Its a sad loss, but to see the love that came from his life makes us realize how much his presence… even the short time he was here… was a gift to all of us. God Blessed all of you who were touched by him, may his touch on your heart maintain its vigor as though he were still here touching your heart every moment. To his mother, you are so kind and always were there for him… thank you so much for raising such a great son. To his father, you clearly were a man in which he looked to for answers, and apparently you gave him a good head to rest on his shoulders. To all his friends, you may have been blessed by him but he was also blessed to be with you. Remember that his best times were shaped by those around him, that his rough times passed with those around him, and that his memory rests in all those who were around him. May he rest in peace, and may his resting never let us forget.

    -Thomas Caswell
    US Navy

  13. It was no accident that I learned of Rob’s effort to kindle the compassion that we truly need in order to have a safer and more loving world. Not only was he the firekeeper for the Lakota Sundance prayer ceremony in South Dakota, but he has and always will be the keeper of the fire in all of us who are working hard to bring peace into our communities and one day through a cabinet-level Department of Peace in America.

    Don Wahl
    Director, Youth Violence Prevention and SEL Project
    St. Louis, MO

  14. On this approaching the one year anniversary, your light burns brighter and brighter

  15. It’s been a year now, since Rob died. His mother and I passed the day in Idylwild, in the wintry forests of Mount San Jacinto, in the San Bernardino mountains. It’s been a year of loss, sorrow, and pain, but also a year of hope and renewed inspiration. We’re amazed at how wonderfully our friends and family have shown up, to offer help, a kind word, an offer of service.

    We miss Rob so much, but we see how we can move on now. fyi, I learned just today that one of Rob’s corneas was used to restore sight to a 21-year-old who was blinded when a disease destroyed his own cornea. I’m encouraged to know that part of Rob is still providing real vision here on Earth.

    Much love and good wishes to Rob’s Kappa Sigma brothers and friends, and all of Rob’s Southwestern family. Make sure to attend the Student Peace Alliance conference on the SU campus in February, 2010. The work of SPA was one of Rob’s great passions. Let it inspire you, too, to build a more peaceful family, community, and world.

    John Atkinson,
    Robert Atkinson’s father

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