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Wendy Reuer, Published November 22 2013

NDSU remembers 6 students who have died since 2012

FARGO – Leon Weitgenant is still searching for a reason why.

His daughter, North Dakota State University student Amanda Weitgenant died in her sleep on March 17. She was 19 years old.

Mandy, as she was known to most, was a talented multi-instrument music major from Ham Lake, Minn. The cause of her death is still unknown, Weitgenant said Friday.

But while Leon Weitgenant wonders if he will ever find answers to his daughter’s death, he is sure her short time on the NDSU campus will not be forgotten. Nor will any of the five other NDSU students who were lost since 2012.

A ceremony Friday at the NDSU Memorial Union paid tribute to the six students, who included:

- Weitgenant.

- Colby Anderson of Fargo, a criminal justice major and Rodeo Club member who died in Sept. 23, 2012, when he was struck by a train.

- The four women who died in a car accident near Alexandria, Minn., on Feb. 20 2012: Megan Sample of Rogers, Minn., Lauren Peterson, Prior Lake, Minn., Danielle Renninger of Excelsior, Minn., and Jordan Playle from Elk River.

Weitgenant said he has been honored and amazed at the way the school and students have not let the memory of his daughter or any of those who were lost fade.

Trees have been planted on campus for each of the students and plaques inscribed with the name of each will be placed near the trees.

Prakash Mathew, vice president for student affairs, said the trees represent the lives of the six students and serve as permanent reminders of who each individual was.

“(The students) will be missed, but they will always be remembered because they are our family at NDSU,” said Mathew.

Trees for Renninger, Sample, Peterson and Playle are planted near Sevrinson Hall. Anderson’s tree is near the NDSU equine center and a tree for Weitgenant is near the Reineke Fine Arts Center.

Erik Diederich, student body vice president, told friends and family of the six students who attended Friday’s event that Anderson, Weitgenant, Playle, Peterson, Sample and Renninger will always be a part of the Bison family.

“That’s something that is very, very unique to being a Bison,” Diederich said. “It’s having the atmosphere of a family. We’ve got 15,000 students here, but it just doesn’t feel like it. It feels like a family of 20.”

Diederich said Friday’s tree-planting and memorial ceremony was a formal way for students to recognize classmates who died during their time at NDSU.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530