Lewis & Clark mourns the loss of Finnegan “Finn” Woodruff ’21, a student who was taking classes at LC to finish his degree at Bowdoin. Finn passed away in a white water kayaking accident on Nov. 16.
“Our campus community was heartbroken to hear of the death of Finnegan “Finn” Woodruff,” the Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Robin Holmes-Sullivan said via email. “Although at LC for a brief period of time, Finn really made an impression on his fellow classmates and faculty. We mourn his loss.”
Finn passed just shy of his 23rd birthday. He was known by his friends and peers as an artistic and dedicated person. He was a fiddle player, a tailor, an artist and an experienced white water kayaker. He lived along the banks of the White Salmon River in Washington with his partner Siena Wiedmann.
During his time at LC, Finn worked closely with Susan Davis, senior lecturer in Theatre/program head of dance. Davis recalls that Finn would always arrive early to classes to chat.
“We would just talk shop, and he was such an interesting person,” Davis said. “(And) after class he would always linger on and want more information and want to stretch more.”
Davis said that her first impression of Finn was when he had emailed her during the summer telling her that he was going to be taking the classes social dance forms, history practice and fundamentals of movement
“He didn’t take anything for granted,” Davis said. “That was also something that was really special about him. He really got the value of just being alive everyday and he just went for it.”
Davis explained that Finn was athletic but at his core, he was an artistic spirit. She described him as multitalented, even having taught himself how to sew and make clothes.
Finn’s classmates threw a celebration of life party for him, giving students a place to remember Finn and his spirit.
“We cried, hugged each other,” Davis said. “We listened to the music and a live musician was playing for us. It was a really little ceremony. It wasn’t closure, but it was a way to process. People were in small groups just talking and some people were just meditating.”
Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Life Hilary Martin Himan is coordinating ways to memorialize Finn on campus.
“Just the impact that Finn had in this very short time that he was a student, I think, speaks to his character and what a beautiful human being he was. So that’s really a tragic loss,” Himan said.
The Office of Spiritual Life hosted a celebration of life for Finn on Dec. 2. It was an intimate luncheon for the students in Finn’s classes.
“I’m glad we have the opportunity to gather and to grieve together and to highlight how Finn impacted us in a very short time, but it’s very sad,” Himan said.
According to Himan, Bowdoin is planning on holding a memorial for Finn during the upcoming spring semester. The celebration of life will be broadcast live and available for LC students to watch. Details regarding the gathering will be available soon.
Finn was also a part of the larger Oregon community as he worked at a restaurant and was a member of various hiking and kayaking groups in the Pacific Northwest.
“He was a bartender at a restaurant,” David said. “He was such a charismatic, cute guy. I can imagine that he just made them so endeared to him just by serving them a beer and chatting.”
Davis also explained that Finn liked to further his understanding of his classes, by staying late to perfect a movement. Finn had an energy that drew people to him.
Community members who feel impacted by the loss of Finn should reach out to Director of Clinical Services Robin Keillor for support.
Additional Reporting by Asmaa Zaidan & Ihsaan Mohamed