Purple Ribbons, Fond Memories and a Passion for Fashion Come Together to Honor a Beloved Friend

As the sun made a rare, warm April appearance, a crowd gathered in the shade outside Kent State University’s Rockwell Hall to remember Taylor Pifer. One-by-one, Ms. Pifer’s friends stepped up to the microphone remembering how their kind and outgoing friend would say hi to complete strangers; how she could never hold a grudge; how she loved fashion and Dunkin Donuts.

Erica Mohler shares memories of her fallen friend, Taylor Pifer, before dedicating a swing in Taylor's honor.

Ms. Pifer’s life was cut unexpectedly short in June of 2017. To keep her memory alive, her friends, Nicole Barrett, Samantha Jaras and Erica Mohler, wanted to create a space on campus for people to visit when they were missing her. They came up with the idea of raising money for a swing outside the Kent State Fashion School, a place dear to Ms. Pifer’s heart and a place she spent a lot of time as a fashion design major.

“I struggled with the fact that one of the nicest people I knew was gone,” said Ms. Mohler during the dedication ceremony. “My little brother reminded me that her kindness could be spread even without her here. I just wanted a place where we could all go to remember her.”

Ms. Mohler helped lead the effort to organize their fundraising efforts in November for Kent State’s Giving Tuesday, with the guidance of Kent State’s Institutional Advancement. In all, they raised $8,451 for the swing and a plaque that reads, “In Memory of Taylor Lynne Pifer.” Next to the bronze lettering are dozens of purple ribbons that friends and family tied to the swing, a symbolic gesture to honor her memory and get a glimpse of her favorite color.

“This is all about a student who was special to us here,” said Leigh Greenfelder, assistant vice president of advancement communications at Kent State. “A tragedy such as this is truly heartbreaking for the community, and the ripple effect of losing a student runs deep. We're just thankful we could do something to celebrate Taylor; to leave a lasting impression of her here on campus where her friends, family and campus community can connect to her.”

Kent State President Beverly J. Warren addressed Ms. Pifer’s family sitting in the front row, acknowledging that the Kent State community shares their grief. She reflected on Ms. Pifer’s vibrant character and drive to achieve. With a comforting smile, President Warren told the crowd that Ms. Pifer had a very special family both at home and at Kent State.

In addition to the swing, money raised will also go toward the Taylor Pifer Memorial Scholarship. Ms. Pifer’s family reached out to the university shortly after her death to set up the scholarship in hopes of helping students in Kent State’s Fashion School. The scholarship is expected to be awarded for the first time in the fall.