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Penn community members participate in a candlelight vigil Thursday night on College Green for Wharton junior Owen Thomas, who died Monday.

Friends, teammates, coaches and professors gathered Thursday night on College Green to remember Wharton junior Owen Thomas with a candlelight vigil. All 425 candles brought to the vigil were lit, according to Associate Chaplain Stephen Kocher.

"Owen touched and blessed a lot of lives here at Penn," University Chaplain Chaz Howard said. "Tonight, there will be tears. But we also hope that there will be light as well."

Thomas, who was recently voted a co-captain of the football team, was found dead at his off-campus residence at 39th Street and Baltimore Avenue Monday afternoon. His mother, Rev. Katherine Brearley, confirmed Tuesday that "Owen hanged himself."

At the vigil, Howard introduced one of Thomas' football coaches, Jim Schaefer, who spoke of Thomas' "infectious smile" and "great sense of humor."

Following Schaefer's remarks, football teammate Joe Goniprow spoke of Thomas' dedication and enthusiasm. "It's rare to see a kid who everyone looks up to. Freshmen, seniors alike looked up to O.T.," Goniprow said. "His personality was larger than life — infectious."

Management professor Jennifer Mueller remembered the first time Thomas was in one of her classes. Upon initially meeting Thomas, she said she was "suspicious" of him having a large ego. But contrary to her expectation, she said, "he let other people shine" and "showed enthusiastic respect for others' ideas."

College and Wharton junior Ayesha Chacko, who lived in Fisher Hassenfeld College House with Thomas their freshman year, said she will remember Thomas as "laughing."

"This is our chance to make ourselves become better people — the kind Owen would have wanted us to become," said College junior Jackie Haas, who also lived in Thomas' hall.

Both Chacko and Haas remembered Thomas' love for classic rock band Led Zeppelin. After speaking about her friend, Haas read the lyrics to the Led Zeppelin song "Thank You."

The Penn Glee Club performed the song "Amazing Grace," after which Excelano Project member and Wharton senior Justin Reilly read a spoken-word poem about Thomas, in which he called Thomas' heart "so big it had its own gravitational pull."

The vigil concluded with a prayer by football team chaplain Mark Pass, closing words by Howard and the Led Zeppelin song "Stairway to Heaven" played over speakers.

"Even as you blow these candles out, nothing can blow Owen's life out," Howard said.

Funeral services for Thomas will be held Monday, May 3 at 10:30 a.m. at the Union United Church of Christ Church in Neffs, Pa. The University will provide transportation for students on a first-come, first-served basis. Please visit the website of the Office of the Chaplain to register.

UPDATE: The University has extended the deadline for registering for transportation to the funeral services. Registration will remain open through the weekend.

Any person wishing to contribute comments or additional information should e-mail Daily Pennsylvanian Managing Editor Samantha Sharf at

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