Chandler Williams, a senior criminal justice major from Colorado Springs, Colorado, died Sunday in his Edwards Hall dorm room at the age of 21. ACU Police Chief Jimmy Ellison said ACUPD is still investigating the death.
A funeral service for Chandler, who also served as a residence assistant in Edwards, is scheduled for 11 a.m.-noon Thursday at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Scott McDowell, vice president for student life, said he is working with Williams’ family on a date for a local memorial service.
Chandler made the adjustment to Abilene within the first days his freshman year by befriending Austin Brown, now a senior nursing major from Fort Worth.
Austin, assistant director of Edwards Hall, described his friend the ultimate “people person.”
During their first night in the dorm four years ago, Williams, Brown and a group of other freshmen ended up hanging out in someone’s room, building relationships through small talk and video games, Brown said. As the semester continued, so did their time together.
“The same group of guys kept hanging out and kept talking every day,” Austin said. “We realized we had something special.”
The two spent most of their freshman year together spending late nights playing games like FIFA and Super Smash Bros. and talking about life. Once, Austin decided to buy Madden because it was on clearance. The next morning at 2 a.m., Austin used his fake confidence to challenge Chandler to a game.
“He’s sitting in this bean bag chair that nobody likes playing Madden, and I’m awful at it – he’s beating me by more than 30 points, and I look over and he’s asleep,” Austin said. “I’m like, ‘Dude wake up, are you seriously falling asleep and beating me right now?'”
Throughout their first year, Chandler’s friends teased him for how often he considered going back home to Colorado. And during his sophomore year, Chandler indeed returned home for two semesters.
Austin said that’s when their group of friends realized they needed him back in Abilene.
“He was our brother, it wasn’t OK,” Austin said. “It just made us realize how much we wanted to be around him.”
As Austin was riding his bike from his biology lab to the Bean the fall semester of his junior year, he was surprised to see Chandler for the first time since he left Abilene.
“He never told me he was coming back, but one day he was walking to the Bean – he spent half of his life in the Bean – and I ended up sitting there and talking to him for 45 minutes because it was so good to see him.”
As the end of the year approached and the Office of Residence Life began its hiring process, Austin and Zach Snyder, residence director of Edwards Hall, were talking about the next year and Chandler’s name got thrown into the mix, Austin said he couldn’t help but think how amazing that would be.
“I told Zach there’s no competition. Mark that spot off the list. It’s filled.”
Austin said was excited throughout last summer knowing he’d be working with two of his friends in Edwards Hall, and the fall semester was perfect as perfect as he thought it would be.
Austin said even people who had only known Chandler for a semester were impacted by his death.
“It didn’t take four years to get to know Chandler like you’ve known him for a lifetime,” Austin said. “Even if you didn’t know Chandler, he cared about you.”
For Chandler, the more friends he had, the better it was for him. Austin said often, he’d turn around and Chandler would be talking to a random person neither of them knew.
“I think Chandler struggled in a lot of ways, and unfortunately, there was nothing that we could do,” Austin said. “Hopefully people use his story to open their eyes, minds and ears. This is a real thing that people deal with.”
Austin said even though there are still questions, spending time with staff, thinking back on memories and not letting them fade has helped in the coping process.
The university offered a time of remembrance on Sunday evening at Chapel on the Hill and during Chapel on Monday.
“They’ve done a fantastic job about letting us know that we are not alone either, and university officials and residents all step up to ensure that even though we lost one of our brothers, we can still push through,” Austin said. “Theres not a single person on this earth who isn’t loved, and there’s not a single person on this earth who can’t get through their struggles with help.”