WEB UPDATE: Grad student dies in off-campus apartment

Web Update Posted: Friday, Dec. 23, 2005

Patrick Tweed, a second-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English, was found dead in his Bowen Street apartment on the evening of Dec. 19.

The death was an apparent suicide. Tweed was found by his roommate, also an English graduate student at Brown.

Faculty members who knew Tweed described him as a talented writer and teacher.

“He is a quiet person on the surface, but very thoughtful and a lot of that came out in his work with students,” said Associate Professor of English Melinda Rabb. “The most wonderful thing he did for my course was to help my students with their writing. He was particularly generous and astute in responding to undergraduate writing.”

This past semester, Tweed served as teaching assistant for Rabb’s EL 151.3: “Austen and Her Predecessors.” It was his first teaching role at Brown, as first-year English grad students do not have teaching responsibilities.

Tweed, a 35-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, attended Portland State University as an undergraduate.

Prior to Tweed’s death, those who worked closely with him had no reason to suspect that he was particularly troubled, according to Kevin McLaughlin, professor of English and chair of the department. Faculty often reach out to grad students who appear to be struggling with non-academic problems and encourage them to seek support from Psychological Services, but no one noticed anything wrong with Tweed, McLaughlin said.

“Patrick was quiet, but he wasn’t isolated and disengaged. … He was a very strong writer and was performing very well in the program,” McLaughlin said. Tweed received strong ratings and earned A’s in all but one of his courses at Brown, he added.

University officials sent an e-mail on Dec. 20 to all faculty and graduate students to inform them of the death. McLaughlin hosted an informal gathering for the English department later that afternoon, bringing together some 25 professors and grad students to share a moment of silence.

“Some of the students were definitely in shock at that point,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said he encouraged professors in the department to stay in touch over winter break with grad students they have worked closely with. Usually professors and grad students have little contact with each other during the break, “but in this case we wanted to make sure we did have some lines of communication open,” McLaughlin said.

Rabb told students in EL 151.3 of the death at the end of the course’s final exam Tuesday afternoon. “I’m glad that we were able to have a moment of silence together in his honor,” Rabb said. “Courses are little communities … so it was important that we had a chance to share the sad news together in a more personal way.”

Belinda Johnson, director of Psychological Services, was present for Rabb’s announcement. “I thought Professor Rabb did a very sensitive job of letting the students know about Patrick’s death,” she said.

The entire Brown community received an e-mail the following day, Dec. 21, from Dean of the Graduate School Sheila Bonde and Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services David Greene with basic information about Tweed’s death and available support services.

Available support

* Support services are available 24 hours a day through the Office of Student Life, Chaplains Office and Psych Services. Students in need of support are encouraged to contact the dean on call at 863-3145 during the day or through the Department of Public Safety at 863-3322 after hours.

* During winter recess, the Psych Services clinician on call can be reached through Health Services at 863-3953 during the day and though the Department of Public Safety at 863-3322 at all other times.

* Suicide Prevention: If you need help for yourself or a friend, call Psych Services at 863-3953 during the day or 863-3322 at night; a Student Life dean at 863-3145 or 863-3322 after hours; or talk to a peer counselor. A 24-hour national crisis hotline is also available at (800) 273-TALK.