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Tompkins’ life is celebrated

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Layla Abbas
Editor in Chief

In honor of Andrew Tompkins, a former University of La Verne diver and business administration major who died of cancer on Sept. 22, the University hosted a celebration of his life Oct. 3 in the Athletics Pavilion.

More than 100 people filed in the gym to celebrate the life of Mr. Tompkins’ who was 21 when he succumbed to a long battle with a type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. 

The room was filled with grief, but also laughter as people heard stories from Mr. Tompkins’ close friends and family members. 

Mr. Tompkins was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2017. He took a year off for treatment and returned to the University in spring 2019. The cancer returned in April 2019.

Provost Jonathan Reed awarded Mr. Tompkins’ family with an associate of arts degree that Mr. Tompkins earned with a nearly perfect GPA. 

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, president, faculty and staff, students and alumni, it is an honor to present the family with this degree, which Andrew earned summa cum laude with highest honors,” Reed said. “We hope this degree can give the family some comfort and be a cherished memory of Andrew as an exceptional student-scholar and student-athlete.”

The celebration of life was led by University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner. 

Members of Mr. Tompkins’ family took turns at the podium to share their memories of Mr. Tompkins and gratitude for the University.

“We were truly blessed to be Andrew’s parents,” said Paul Tompkins, Mr. Tompkins’ father. “The University has bent over backwards and we are so deeply touched and grateful for all you have done for us. On behalf of Andrew’s memory, there is always somebody who needs a touch of love every single day and maybe we can give a bit of that Andrew and pass it along.”

Mr. Tompkins’ close friends Amber DeLoye, Erin Labota and Briana White each took turns at the podium and shared the friendship they had with Mr. Tompkins. 

A common theme in each of their speeches was Mr. Tompkins love for dancing, Ariana Grande and Beyoncé.

DeLoye was assigned to be Mr. Tompkins’ mentor the first year on the swim and dive team at the University. 

“He was so talented and easily fit right onto the team,” DeLoye said. “He had the best attitude and positive energy. At some point in this journey, I believe we flipped roles. He turned into my mentor.

“Seeing how hard he fought through his awful illness, he inspired me to be the best person I can be,” DeLoye said. “I miss many things, but one of those things is his dance moves. He would bust out in moves no matter where we were. Something about seeing him do it made me so happy.”

Pat Skehan, head swimming and diving coach, said even in his last months Mr. Tompkins focused all of his energies and care in encouraging his close friends and family.

“I am so proud of the man Andrew became,” Skehan said. “In honor of him I encourage you all to have an impromptu dance party and blast Ariana Grande as loud as you can. And when you do it remember his smile, his really hearty laugh and his goofy dance moves.”

President Devorah Lieberman and Athletic Director Scott Winterburn visited Mr. Tompkins at his home earlier this year.

“I walked into the house thinking that I needed to help Andrew be brave and courageous,” Lieberman told those in attendance. “Well it took seconds to realize that the whole time we were there, Andrew was showing us how to be brave and courageous. 

Many close friends and family mentioned the podcast episode Mr. Tompkins recorded a few months ago with Josh Boyer titled, “Getting Real With Josh Boyer.”

The episode is available at listennotes.com.

In honor of Mr. Tompkins, donations can be made to the Kylie Rowand Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer, at kyliestrong.org/donate.

Layla Abbas can be reached at layla.abbas@laverne.edu.

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