Thomas J. Turner, 19, Goucher College student

March 26, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Thomas Jackson Turner, a Goucher College student who was an outstanding athlete, took his life Monday on the school's campus in Towson. He was 19.

"Tom was the all-around, all-American college kid," said Goucher President Sanford J. Ungar. "He had many friends from all different parts of the campus. He was everybody's friend. He had an impact on an awful lot of people here at Goucher. He was a very sensitive young man, and we're all just stunned by this."

Mr. Turner was born in Denver and raised in Los Osos, Calif. He was a 2002 graduate of Morro Bay High School, and an all-league, all-county member of its cross-country team. He also played golf and was active in the French Club.

He played drums and guitar and was known for his imitation of the Blues Brothers and vigorous rendition of Cab Calloway's famed "Hi-De-Ho" vaudeville act.

"Thomas was attracted by the size of Goucher and its small, intimate, caring community," said his mother, Theresa M. Kubasak of New York City. "He was interested in studying history and teaching history on the high school level. He wanted to mentor students, like his coach at Morro Bay High. He was a very talented kid who loved life. Since this happened, many students have been telling our family of the joy he brought to them."

Mr. Turner lived at the Tuttle House dormitory on campus. In addition to immersing himself in studies, he was on the track team, performed with the college's Red Hot Blue a cappella singing group, and was involved in outreach with HIV/AIDS patients.

He had achieved all-league honors in cross country in his freshman and sophomore seasons. He was ranked 80th in the Mideast Region of NCAA Division III, 11th in his conference, and was captain of the Goucher team.

"Tom was our No. 1 male runner at Goucher this past year, and he was our best runner at every meet," said John R. Caslin, cross-country coach. "As a sophomore, his time for an 8K race on the Salisbury University course was 26.27. He was just starting to reach his potential and had an amazing future as a runner. He had a gregarious personality and a great love for people."

Mr. Caslin added: "When we learned of Tom's death, one of my runners put it this way: `Tom decided to leave the race too early.' That's so poignant. I was reading something an author had written about his friend's death under similar circumstances. He had written, `I hope they know that by their death, how well they were loved.'"

During the semester break this past winter, Mr. Turner and other Goucher students studied abroad in Avignon, France.

"The two things I remember most about Tom was his sense of humor and his ability to make people laugh," said Mark S. Ingram, a French professor. "He was very generous with them and always gave lots of himself.

"And second, we had been entertained in Avignon by a theater group who had sung for us. I volunteered our students to sing to those who had hosted us. Tom stepped right up and organized it. He played guitar as they sang `Hey Jude.'"

In response to Mr. Turner's death, a noontime gathering was held Monday and a candlelight vigil that night in the college chapel attended by an estimated 900 students and faculty members. Goucher has an enrollment of about 1,200.

"It was tremendously moving," Mr. Ungar said. "People stood up spontaneously and offered their personal recollections of Tom."

"They brought music, poetry and reflections," said the Rev. Kelly Denton-Borhaug, Goucher's chaplain. "We asked a blessing for Tom, his family and our community."

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. April 13 in Haebler Memorial Chapel at the college.

In addition to his mother, Mr. Turner is survived by his father, Michael D. Turner of Los Osos; a sister, Annie H. Turner of Honolulu; and his stepfather, Gabe Huck of New York City.

The family suggested memorial donations to the Tom Turner Memorial Fund at Goucher College, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson 21204.

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