Bowie State graduates mix joy, sadness after classmate’s killing

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Graduating seniors of Bowie State University’s Class of 2017 are celebrating their successes while remembering a talented and popular classmate who was stabbed to death three days before he was scheduled to receive his diploma.

Richard Collins III was commissioned last week as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was stabbed to death on the University of Maryland campus early Saturday morning.

Prosecutors said the murderer is a member of a white supremacist Facebook group.

“I still keep thinking about his family, and what could have been,” said Tijahra Cox, who majored in communications and plans to go to graduate school. “It’s unfortunate that he didn’t get to see this day.”

Collins’ graduation gown was draped over a front row folding chair during the ceremony at Xfinity Center on the Maryland Center.

Collins was visiting friends on the University of Maryland campus when he was murdered.

“It’s very unfortunate that people have hate in their hearts in 2017,” said Cox. “I pray for his family, and I’m walking for him today.”

Classmate Seonna Wallace, graduating with a degree in communications, said the death of Collins is unfair.

“He was supposed to be here with us,” said Wallace. “I think all of us are going to feel that loss today.”

Before his fellow classmates received their diplomas, Collins was posthumously awarded a B.A. in business administration.

During the ceremony, university president Mickey Burnim said, “I feel the deepest sorrow for what his parents and those who knew and loved him must be going through. We’ve received messages of condolence for our loss, and outrage for the act of violence from numerous people who wanted us to know they stand in solidarity.”

He then offered a moment of silence.

Editor’s note: Corrects attribution in second-to-last paragraph.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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