Students and faculty gather on campus

Updated: August 29, 2003, 4:46 AM ET
Associated Press

WACO, Texas -- A piano and an organ played the comforting strands of "It is Well With My Soul" as somber students and faculty members gathered Thursday night to remember a slain Baylor University basketball player.

A simple arrangement of flowers sat beneath a tall stained glass window depicting Christ at the front of Powell Chapel, as grieving friends and family joined those who never knew Patrick Dennehy in paying tribute to the handsome, 6-foot-10 forward whose body was found last month.

"We mourn the death, but even more we celebrate the life of Patrick Dennehy," said Todd Lake, Baylor's dean of university ministries, before Baylor President Robert Sloan led a prayer asking for God's comfort and grace.

"Oh Lord, we do not grieve as those who have no hope, but we do grieve," he said.

Reminding mourners of Dennehy's hope as a Christian, student body president Jeff Leach read from the New Testament book of Romans.

In the passage Leach chose, the apostle Paul declares that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come ... shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Thursday's memorial service marked the first event honoring Dennehy on the 722-acre campus on the banks of the Brazos River, where massive, spire-topped brick buildings tower above trees.

New Baylor coach Scott Drew and Dennehy's remaining teammates all attended the service. Speaking on behalf of the team before the memorial began, senior captain Matt Sayman said the players would take the night off from thinking or talking about basketball and dedicate it to remembering Dennehy.

"It's a real important night because we've kind of been holding on to this for a while now," Sayman said. "It's kind of a chance to let go and grieve together."

He said Dennehy's death helps put life in perspective: "How short this life is and how quick it can go."

He remembered Dennehy as a good friend and teammate.

With most students away on summer vacation as details of Dennehy's slaying rocked the Central Texas university, Baylor lacked typical symbols of grief such as ribbons, flower bouquets and candlelight vigils.

"Our students were gone when these tragic events unfolded this summer," Lake said earlier. "They just arrived back on Monday, and this is a chance to gather in the first few days to have a service of worship and comfort those who are sad."

Dennehy's mother, Valorie Brabazon, sat on the front row of the chapel along with Jessica De La Rosa, Dennehy's girlfriend of two years.

"I'm just holding strong right now with the Lord," Brabazon said earlier.

Dennehy never got to play in Baylor's gold-domed arena.

After transferring to Baylor last summer from New Mexico, Dennehy couldn't play for a year because of NCAA rules. He wasn't as well-known as other team members among the 14,000 students but had several close friends.

Carlton Dotson, who played basketball at Baylor last season and lived with Dennehy a few months, was arrested July 21 in his home state of Maryland. He was indicted for murder Wednesday and could be extradited to Texas in the next 60 days.

Dennehy had been missing about six weeks when his body was found July 25 in a field near a rock quarry southeast of town. He had been shot twice in the head.

Dennehy's stepfather, Brian Brabazon, and the player's teenage sister -- who live in Carson City, Nev. -- could not attend the Baylor service because of work and school conflicts, Lake said.

Dick Bernal, pastor of Jubilee Christian Center in San Jose, Calif. -- where Dennehy's funeral was held Aug. 7 -- also planned to speak at the Baylor service.

Former athletic director Tom Stanton attended the service, but had no comment.

Members of Baylor's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee served as ushers, and the university's A Cappella Choir was to sing during the service.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press