Bates College mourns death of junior John Durkin

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The Bates College community is reeling, mourning the death of one of its students.

John Durkin, 21, of Rye Beach, N.H., died Thursday in Rome while on an exchange program through Trinity College of Connecticut.

He had last been seen around 2:30 a.m. Thursday in Campo de’ Fiori, a historic square lined with pubs popular with students. Police said someone aboard a passing train spotted the body a few hours later in the tunnel running under a large park between stations near the Vatican and the Trastevere neighborhood.

According to a report from a news outlet in Rome, Durkin did not have ID on him, which delayed the identification process.

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Saturday morning, on a Facebook page established to help find Durkin after he was reported missing, a post from Ian Durkin relayed the news of his passing after the family made a positive identification.

“It is with much sadness that the Durkin family informs you of the loss of John Nolen Durkin and thanks everyone for their support during the past few days,” Ian Durkin wrote.

Railway police said the case was under investigation and could give no other details.

Friends and fellow Bates College students and alumni were stunned as they started to learn of Durkin’s death.

“There was something special about John,” Kate DeAngelis, a Lewiston native, a 2013 graduate of Bates College and one of Durkin’s friends said in an email interview. “He was the friendliest kid, always sporting that huge smile of his. I can still hear his sweet voice. He was so kind and loving. A strong athlete, driven student and, above all, a faithful friend.”

“This is a time of deep sadness for our community and for so many people who knew and loved John,” Bates President Clayton Spencer said in a news release. “We are profoundly sad and share the tremendous grief of his family.”

Durkin was studying this semester in Rome through a program offered by Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. He was one of six current Bates students on the Trinity program, which typically has a total enrollment of 55 students from a variety of U.S. colleges.

“I wish to express my deepest sympathies, and those of the entire Trinity College community, to the family and friends of John,” Trinity College President James F. Jones Jr. said in a release. “By all accounts, he was an exemplary young man and a student-athlete in the truest sense of the word. I also want to extend my sincere condolences to Bates College, my gratitude to Trinity administrators at our Rome campus, as well as to the Trinity staff in Hartford for their dedication and hard work during this tragic and difficult time.”

Durkin was a linebacker on the Bobcats’ football team. Despite playing in only two games last fall, Durkin recorded 12 tackles (nine solo), one tackle for a loss and forced a fumble. In 2012, as a sophomore, Durkin was second on the team with 57 total tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

“The Bates football family is deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and teammate,” Bates head football coach Mark Harriman said in the school’s release. “John’s commitment to excellence in all phases of his life was inspirational to the other members of the squad and a major factor in the team’s success over the past three years.

“We will remember the fortitude and character that John displayed on a daily basis and attempt to emulate those standards,” Harriman said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Durkin family during this difficult time.”

Durkin is the second Bates College football player to die in the past 18 months. Troy Pappas of Eliot fell to his death in a stairwell at the college in 2012.

“As a family of Bobcats, we have been through a lot these past few years,” DeAngelis wrote. “We all remember Troy. Life keeps testing our strengths and as a school, and we stand strong. I am now all the way out in San Francisco and all I want to do be be back at home closer to the Durkins and those close to John. But all across the world, Bates alumni can be found for support. I plan to be surrounded by Batesies (surprisingly all athletes) later (Saturday) afternoon. Athletes are a huge part of this community. On campus, athletes have come together to start groups for sustainability and the Catholic faith to name a couple. No one can understand fully what it means to be a Batesie unless you are one yourself. John is the poster child of what a Batesie is. There is something different about us that unites us and separates us from other schools.”

Two of Durkin’s siblings also attended Bates: Frederick “Ted” Durkin, who graduated in 2011, and Clare Durkin, who graduated in 2012.

“Clare, we rowed crew together,” DeAngelis recalled. “Then Ted, we used to have push up competitions in the hall … Finally I met ‘the other Durkin,’ as I used to call John. I was a junior back from abroad and he was a very social freshman. As with many friendships at Bates, I don’t remember how exactly we became friends but I know we had a heart-to-heart one night and I would always call him John from then on and he called me Katie (only kids from St. Joe’s call me Katie anymore). Friends ever since.”

Bates students are away from campus on winter break. After the college has consulted with the Durkin family, the college will share plans for a memorial gathering.

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