Pepperdine University mourns student’s death with vigil and memorial

On March 7, Seaver College junior Autumn Tennison died in her Drescher apartment as a result of an accidental overdose of her ADHD medication, confirmed by her parents Gary and Ellen Tennison. 

“Autumn was a homebody, she loved her room. She ate there, she did art there. It was her safe place,” her parents said while gathering her belongings from her dorm room.

Pepperdine students and faculty honored Autumn with a vigil on March 9 at the Amphitheater. The university’s newspaper Pepperdine Graphic reported on the vigil and said it was to offer students a time for “prayer, remembrance, and reflection of Autumn’s life and her precious impact on the Pepperdine community.” 

Autumn, who was born on Oct. 14 , 2000, was the baby of the family and above all, a daddy’s girl, according to her parents.

“I’m going to miss when I genuinely saw her smile,” Gary Tennison said. “I know she’s my daughter, but she was so pretty when she lit up.”

Autumn’s death was something her parents would have never expected. They said she had dark days, but those tough conversations are something they said they would miss.

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Tennison was a part of the Zeta Phi chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta at Pepperdine. The organization made an instagram post about her passing.

Autumn Tennison was a part of the Zeta Phi chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta at Pepperdine. The organization made an instagram post about her passing and shared her photos. Contributed photos.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that the Zeta Phi chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta announces the loss of our beloved Autumn Tennison,” the post reads. “A member of the Fall 2020 Pledge Class, Autumn has been a beacon ray of light and love and has contributed the biggest blessing of friendship to our sisterhood.”

The publication said Autumn struggled with mental health and was rushed to the hospital for an emergency evaluation and said the Student Care Team attended to her. Her parents, who live 2,000 miles away, said they would never forget how helpful and kind the team was.

According to her parents, Autumn assured them she wasn’t suicidal when the doctors questioned whether she was. Autumn said she never really thought about it.

“Autumn always felt like she was broken, that there was something wrong with her,” Ellen Tennison said.

The university’s released a statement Tennison’s death:

“The Pepperdine community is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Autumn Tennison. 

“We offer our sincerest condolences to Autumn’s family, friends, and loved ones, and we keep them in our prayers during this time of profound loss and mourning. The University’s Counseling Center, chaplain’s office, and dean’s office at Seaver College welcome calls and visits from those seeking support as they cope with this loss.”

Pepperdine University has several resources available to those looking for support, including the Counseling Center, the Chaplain’s Office and the Student Care team. Students can contact the Counseling Center at (310) 506-4210 or University Chaplain Sara Barton at (310) 506-4275.

Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo is an inspiring photojournalist based in Los Angeles California. She began her journalism career at Pierce College Media Arts Department. Twitter @samanthavbravo

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