On Wednesday, February 28, Lianne Kowiak visited SUNY Cortland to share her story about how her son, Harrison, died from being hazed. Below is a video of a news report about how laws making hazing illegal is “long over due”.
She first began by telling us a little bit about her son – how caring he was, how his smile could light up a whole room, and how much he loved his little sister, Emma. They were nine years apart.
Harrison was a talented golfer and wanted to make sure he played in college. He ended up attending Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina. He chose Lenoir-Rhyne because he wanted to make sure he played as a Freshman, according to his mom. He really enjoyed it his first year.
After his freshman year, he was debating joining a fraternity. His teammates encouraged him to and after thinking it over, he decided he would. The beginning of his freshman year, he started pledging Theta Chi Fraternity. Lianne was not too thrilled but supported her son in his new endeavor.
Before she described how Harrison had died, she started to talk about the other parents that she has met that have also lost their child to hazing. She pleaded with us to be safe, to not be a bystander, and to be a leader in our community because she does not want another parent to have to “join the club.”
Lianne began to tell her story slowly and with emotion.
She began to tell us that the weekend before was parents’ weekend. Her husband and Emma couldn’t join her because of Emma’s volleyball tournament but she decided to go anyways.
So that weekend, Lianne and Harrison had time to spend together which would be their last time – which neither of them knew at the time, of course. Lianne described the weekend as perfect. She got to meet Harrison’s golf teammates and theta chi brothers, take him out to eat, see his campus and his dorm room. She loved meeting his friends and it comforted her that her son had made great ones while he was away from home.
The next week, she got a phone call around 11 pm from one of Harrison’s fraternity brothers. He explained to her that they were playing football off campus and Harrison hit his head and they brought him to a regional hospital but she should come to North Carolina. She got on the next flight out to see her son.
When she walked in the hospital, she saw his fraternity brothers in the hall – stretched out on the ground, sleeping on chairs. They were all there. She knew it must be bad. She finally saw her son laying in the bed, hooked up to many machines.
The doctor came and explained the injury and asked when she would like to take Harrison off life support. She was in shock. She called her husband and told him that he and Emma should come to the hospital as soon as possible.
When her husband and Emma arrived, she explained to Emma the situation. And Emma got a chance to say goodbye to her big brother. Shortly after, they took him off life support and announced his time of death.
Supposedly, his brothers took him and his one pledge brother to a field twenty miles off campus. They made him run sprints back and forth and then some football players in the fraternity tackled him numerous times which caused his head injury. Instead of calling 9-1-1 right away, they waited because they were scared. If they did, he would have been taken to a trauma center immediately and possibly could have been saved.
It was very sad to hear this mother talk about her son’s death and the confusion she had that his fraternity brothers could do so much harm to him. This impacted the audience very much and there was a lot to take away from this message. It’s admirable that she continues to tell his story as an advocate to prevent hazing.
Thank you to #SUNYCortland for inviting me to speak to Fraternity & Sorority Life and Athletics to share Harrison’s story and how he lost his life at the young age of 19 to hazing. Check out https://t.co/for1De1BLk. Hazing can kill, speak up and don’t be a bystander! Be a leader pic.twitter.com/JMwamDH3DL
— Lianne Kowiak (@Beautifulson19) March 2, 2018