The Mount St. Joseph High School community was in shock Monday after learning that a 2009 graduate of the Irvington campus died Saturday following a 10-mile road march at the Virginia Military Institute.
John Alexander Evans, 19, a freshman at the Lexington, Va., college, collapsed in his barracks room after the march, in which more than 400 members of the freshman class participated, and died at a local hospital. The fourth-class cadet was a resident of Highland in Howard County.
"Without a doubt, everyone is in shock," said Doug Lambdin, a Mount St. Joseph English teacher who taught Evans during his freshman year. "Everyone is looking at each other saying 'Why that guy?' Every teacher said he was such a nice guy. He just left here, and he made such an impression."
The VMI students were doing the walk in preparation for a 23-mile march they are expected to complete at the end of the month, said Col. Stewart MacInnis, spokesman at VMI.
Evans did not report any complications to staff, classmates or emergency medical technicians who were standing by during the walk, according to MacInnis. The first sign of trouble came when Evans' four roommates observed him collapse to the floor in their barracks room.
VMI will review everything that occurred to determine whether any procedures should be modified, MacInnis said.
"We really are shocked," MacInnis said. "We can imagine the parents are just devastated. We're doing our best to support the family's needs."
A memorial service was held at the school Saturday evening. VMI provided counselors to speak with fellow cadets about the death.
Students must meet medical standards before they are admitted to the school, MacInnis said.
"He was medically cleared," MacInnis said. "The doctors certified that he was capable of completing the training."
An autopsy is expected to be completed this week, according to MacInnis.
Evans, who played football and rugby at Mount St. Joseph, was known as a gentle giant, according to faculty at the private all-boys Catholic school.
"John is one of those guys who just left a positive impression on everyone he met," said Lambdin, who was Evans' adviser on the literary magazine, where he served as an editor and contributing writer. "He was a gentleman through and through. He had a genuine smile. He had a very pleasant demeanor. He had a great future. His parents did a tremendous job - that was very plain to see."
Mount St. Joseph Principal Barry Fitzpatrick, who said Evans was the second of three boys in his family to attend the school, described the Evans family as "faith-filled, wholesome and loving."
Fitzpatrick also was Evans' Latin teacher his junior year.
"He was a very good student," Fitzpatrick said. "He worked hard. He was very respectful."
Evans was a leader in the school's retreat program and was part of the Leadership Club, where upstanding student leaders were chosen to speak to prospective parents and students, according to Fitzpatrick.