by Audrey Gore
Whitworth students and faculty gathered together Tuesday, Feb. 22, to remember and give thanks for the life of sophomore Taylor Fenters. Filling the chapel with worship music and stories of Fenters’s time at Whitworth, speakers focused on the large impact Fenters had at Whitworth and in their own personal lives.
Fenters attended Whitworth sporadically for the last two years as he continually battled with a brain tumor. He was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago, but despite this he never gave up hope or his pursuit of knowledge, said assistant professor of theology Karen Peterson-Finch, who was also Fenters’s academic advisor. Though he had been at death’s door many times during his illness, it was not until Jan. 18 that Fenters passed away.
“We have mixed feelings today,” President Beck Taylor said in his welcome at the memorial service, as he gave thanks for the joy Whitworth experienced in having such an enthusiastic student and acknowledged the peace that Fenters must now be experiencing.
Taylor had spoken with Fenters many times before Fenters passed away, and Taylor asked those present at the memorial service to try to have the same confidence in God’s love as Fenters did.
Peterson-Finch remembered the enthusiasm and willingness with which Fenters would come to her to engage in long theological discussions. She recalled, during her speech at the service, how he spoke freely of God’s love and Fenters’ own desire to know more about it and share it with others.
Peterson-Finch also recalled how even though Fenters was often forced to be absent from school, he worked hard to continue to study New Testament Greek, until late last fall when he could no longer continue. His devotion to his education was what prompted Whitworth to make him an honorary alumnus before his death in January.
Despite the precarious situation of his life, Fenters never lost his enthusiasm for life and for sharing his love of God. Landon Crecelius, resident director of Stewart Hall, shared stories from those who lived in residence with Fenters. These stories came from students who loved Fenters’ never failing sense of humor and practical jokes; such as sneaking into friends rooms and changing Facebook statuses and computer backdrops, or wearing his trademark Snuggie around the Stewart lounge.
While his conversations with Peterson-Finch often focused on universal theological questions, they also talked about his own experience with his faith when combating cancer.
“He was worried about people seeing God’s glory in him,” Peterson-Finch said Fenters worried about other’s faith but he was always confident in his own.
“I am secure in the love of God no matter what happens,” Fenters said, according to Rev. Terry McGonigal who spoke with Fenters shortly before his death and gave the sermon at his memorial service.
Those at the memorial service experienced both tears and laughter as they remembered Fenters but those who remember his contribution at Whitworth will always be touched by Fenters and the motivation he brought to other students.
“[Fenters’ life] was as painful as it was beautiful,” Peterson-Finch said.