Two powerful speakers with one powerful message will come to Kansas University on Friday, hoping to change some students’ attitudes about alcohol.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity has joined with the Delta Gamma sorority to put on the first Jason Wren Initiative, an educational seminar on the dangers of underage drinking.
The event will honor the memory of former KU student Jason Wren, who died from alcohol poisoning in March 2009.
The 19-year-old freshman was found dead in bed at the SAE house after a night of heavy drinking. An autopsy later showed his blood alcohol content was .362, more than four times the legal limit for driving.
“The idea for this event started within days after Jason passed last year,” Sigma Alpha Epsilon adviser John Stacy said. “When you’ve got a number of young men who’ve never experienced any of their friends dying, it was a very emotional time. They decided they wanted to do something special in his honor.”
So the Jason Wren Initiative was born.
Organizers are hoping to attract up to 1,000 students to the event, set for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Budig Auditorium.
“The whole reason we’re putting this initiative together is to provide support and help educate students on alternatives and things they can do to help themselves out,” Delta Gamma adviser Kristin Wing said.
Wren was not the only student who died last year in an alcohol-related incident. In April 2009, 18-year-old freshman Dalton Hawkins died after falling from the roof of Watkins Scholarship Hall. A coroner’s report showed he also had been drinking.
Those planning Friday’s event hope two key speakers will help change students’ attitudes about alcohol. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and four-star Gen. Richard Myers will deliver a message about loss.
“He’s seen a career of young men die protecting their country,” Stacy said, “but to die because of alcohol, for a man like General Myers, doesn’t resonate. He sees it from a totally different point of view.”
The other presentation will come from Delta Gamma alumna and Ohio State University graduate Erica Upshaw, who lost her brother in an alcohol- and drug-related incident in 2000.
“I think Erica’s message is really going to be key,” Wing said. “She really talks peer to peer, and we’ve found in working with college students that it doesn’t really do a whole lot of good to point fingers. It’s really a discussion that’s going to come peer to peer from her.”