UCSB Grieves Over Death of Student
By Taylor Haggerty
Published Monday, March 9, 2009
Sean Feliciano, a 20-year-old student and member of Sigma Pi fraternity, died in Isla Vista last Tuesday.
Authorities responding to a 9-1-1 call arrived at the fraternity house shortly after 8 p.m. and discovered that Feliciano had taken his own life. Feliciano had been diagnosed with depression earlier this year and was being treated for the disorder.
Feliciano’s friend and fraternity brother Cliff Vandegrift, a fourth-year psychology major, said Feliciano’s death came as a shock and has had a great impact on the fraternity house.
“Obviously, there has been a lot of sadness and hurt and pain, but a lot of the guys have bonded from it as well,” Vandegrift said. “We’re trying to focus on the positive memories we have, and there are a lot of them. We’re grieving, but he wouldn’t want us to be in grief forever. He always had our best interest at heart and would want us to be happy and remember him for who he was and learn from it.”
Growing up, Feliciano was an Eagle Scout and the captain of his water polo team. He also played hockey and was on the swimming team. His father, Bob Feliciano – who Sean referred to as “Old Man” – said his son was the most important part of his life.
“If I was going to ask God for a son, I would have asked for Sean,” Feliciano said. “You couldn’t ask for a better boy.”
Tomek Jagoda, Feliciano’s close friend and fraternity brother, said anyone who met Sean would consider him a friend within minutes.
“He was always smiling, there was no sign of sadness on his face,” he said. “He was always social and made friends so easily.”
Vandegrift said Feliciano’s friendly and easygoing manner will be missed.
“Probably the thing most people will remember about Sean is his smile and his laughter,” Vandegrift said. “That was the first thing anyone mentioned after meeting him.”
According to Vandegrift, nearly one hundred people attended a memorial service at Sigma Pi in Feliciano’s honor last Thursday. There will also be a service at a Presbyterian church in his hometown of Downey, California this Tuesday.
Noting Feliciano’s struggle with depression, Vandegrift said he and Jagoda were considering starting an outreach program within the greek system next quarter to address the disorder.
“A suicide in a system like this – it hurts a lot, that’s for sure,” Vandegrift said. “We want to make people aware that a lot can be done to prevent something like this.”
Bob Feliciano reiterated the dangers of depression and said it worried him that so many people are unaware of the seriousness of depression.
“My son became terminally ill and the disease took him away from us,” Feliciano said. “The person who did this was not my son – it was a disease.”
Jagoda said although Feliciano’s friends knew he was seeing a counselor and being treated for depression, Sean did not like to talk about it.
“He was on antidepressant pills, but he didn’t like other people to know about his problems,” Jagoda said. “He didn’t like to show vulnerability. A few times he opened up, but mostly he just switched the subject.”
While Bob Feliciano said he cannot understand what came over his son, he takes comfort in his belief that Sean is no longer suffering.
“I can take solace that as bad and horrible and empty as I feel, he must have felt worse and he’s at peace now,” Feliciano said. “Every parent should hug their kid more often. Don’t let them go like this.”