Pepperdine student spearheads effort for crash victims’ memorial

A group of Pepperdine students pose with memorial crosses on an on campus hill. Pepperdine student Thomas Monthofer led an effort to install crosses in memory of the four Pepperdine student killed in the Oct. 17 PCH crash. Contributed Photo

GoFundMe account created to directly support the victims’ families with funeral costs

By Barbara Burke

Special to The Malibu Times

With the senseless deaths of four Pepperdine students on October 17 in the 21500 block of Pacific Coast Highway, fellow student Thomas Monthofer, a grieving friend of the victims, spearheaded an effort to place four white crosses atop a hill on campus to honor the memories of Niamh Rolston, 20; and Peyton Stewart, Asha Weir, and Deslyn Williams, all 21. All the victims were seniors set to graduate and sorority sisters with Pepperdine’s Alpha Phi chapter. That all changed when a driver lost control of his vehicle and slammed into several parked cars, which then struck the girls.

Right after the students’ deaths, Pepperdine President James Gash issued a statement striving to, in some way, help begin to assuage the pain being experienced by the Pepperdine and Malibu community. Monthofer’s efforts to erect four white crosses in memory of the students exemplified Gash’s loving, comforting admonition, with the president saying Monthofer “harnessed the strength found in the bonds of friendship and the community that unites us.”

Monthofer started a GoFundMe effort, and he and his fraternity, Sigma Chi, hosted a philanthropy week to honor the students by giving their utmost support to the families. “Derby Days,” as they called it, was a week-long event to raise money to construct a monument next to the large white cross on the hill with plaques and four crosses bearing the victims’ names. 

Doing so, the GoFundMe effort stated, will provide “a way for friends and loved ones to remember them, visit them, and pray for them.”  The effort also stated that funds raised would “provide donations directly to the victims’ families to aid with funeral costs and legal bills involved.” Finally, the Go Fund Me page stated, “In order to make Pacific Coast Highway safer, we are attempting to adopt a stretch of the highway and (we are) pushing for speed cameras, rumble strips, and more.”

To see the GoFundMe page, go to  

The tradition of placing white crosses on a hill atop began with another senseless tragedy that befell a Pepperdine student. Liam Staats, a member of Sigma Chi, Pepperdine chapter, placed the original cross on the hill to honor victim Alaina Housley, another Pepperdine student whose life was cut short in the Borderline Bar & Grill mass shooting on Nov. 7, 2018. 

Subsequently, the name of Pepperdine student Dev Singh was added after he passed away on Nov. 4, 2021 in a hit-and-run traffic collision. At that time, those remembering Singh said in a tribute that expresses the sentiments of those grieving the four women students who were killed on the PCH this year, “Your presence we miss, your memories we treasure, Loving you always, forgetting you never.” 

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Crosses placed in memory of (smaller crosses from left) PCH crash victims Deslyn Williams, Asha Weir, Niamh Rolston, and Peyton Stewart. The previously installed larger cross is in memory of Dev Singh, another Pepperdine student who died in a hit-and-run traffic collision in 2021. Contributed Photo