SALEM — Family, friends, fellow officers, and college officials, and students gathered under a brilliant blue sky Monday to remember Sean A. Collier, the MIT police officer allegedly gunned down by the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, as a smart and loyal alumnus of Salem State University and a fun-loving friend.
“Sean’s life is an inspiration to others in our major,” Kristen Kuehnle, chairwoman of the Criminal Justice Department, who also taught Collier, told those attending the ceremony. “He is a role model for others to emulate.”
Collier, 27, who grew up in Wilmington, had deep ties to Salem State, having received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with honors in 2009.
Just four weeks after the Marathon bombings stunned the nation, about 300 family, friends, and former teachers gathered on a Salem State lawn near the campus police station to recall the fallen former student.
“I was lucky enough to know Sean, to work with Sean, and to study alongside Sean,” said Tim Walton, a Newton police officer who wore his dress blues to honor his friend. “He has truly pushed me to be a better police officer and a more caring, understanding person.”
The ceremony was scheduled for National Police Week, during which slain officers across the country are remembered, the university said.
Collier was shot on April 18, while sitting in his MIT police cruiser near Kendall Square in Cambridge, allegedly by bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokar. His death touched off a 20-hour manhunt that ultimately led to the death of Tamerlan and the capture of Dzhokhar, 19.
“The night of April 18 went down as one of the worst nights of my life,” said Daniel Jenkins, a former roommate who is now a campus police officer at North Shore Community College in Danvers. “But I’m really glad to say, that on some of the best nights of my life, Sean was there.”
Jenkins recalled a lighter side of Collier, whose lifelong dream was to be a police officer. He was the goofy roommate who sang Christmas carols at 2 a.m. And he thought it would be a good idea to start a transportation service from the driveway of the off-campus apartment they shared (his roommates didn’t), according to Jenkins.
Collier would bring friends to his family home in Wilmington to watch cable TV, and he proudly wore the jersey of former New England Patriot Ellis Hobbs, his friend also said.
“He was one of the few people on earth who owned his shirt,” Jenkins said, with a slight shake of his head.
Collier displayed more brains than brawn, Jenkins said, but he could also be a good sport.
“He didn’t have a single athletic bone in his body, yet he was always up for a game of three-on-three basketball or a game of two-man touch football,” Jenkins said with a smile.
Collier’s father, Allen, and his brother-in-law, Brendan Lynch, attended the 45-minute service. The pair did not speak, but accepted a copy of a plaque from the university’s Criminal Justice Academy, a student-run organization. The original will hang in the Criminal Justice Department.
The Rev. Richard Clancy, the Catholic chaplain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gave an invocation, seeking grace for those “grieving the loss of one so young.”
As the university’s a cappella group sang the National Anthem, three MIT police officers — Captain Albert Pierce, the chief of staff; Captain Craig Martin, and Sergeant Richard Sullivan — saluted.
Salem State president Patricia Meservey announced that the university has created a scholarship in Collier’s memory and that a memorial tree will be planted for him outside a new library due to open in the fall.
Meservey urged students, faculty, and especially seniors who will graduate on Saturday to reflect on the lessons of Collier’s too-short life.
“Sean Collier’s lifelong goal was to help others,” Meservey said. “In death, he has done just that.
“Our gratitude to him is immense. . . . We will preserve the memory of the ordinary young man, who so wanted to do extraordinary things.”