Community gathers for vigil honoring Nicky Cumberland’s life

AddThis

Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

Nicholas Cumberland, radio-television-film and finance junior, spent his nights studying at the Perry-Castañeda Library. However, without fail, Cumberland would leave at 9 p.m. to listen to the Tower bells play “The Eyes of Texas.” 

On Tuesday night, the bells rang again — but this time, it was in honor of him.

“The sentiment of it all gave him a sense of peace,” said Clio Harralson, Cumberland’s girlfriend and management information systems and Plan II junior. “It made him feel like part of a community. A community of scholars, leaders and innovators all loyal to these 40 Acres like he was.” 

Hundreds gathered at the Gregory Gym Plaza Thursday night to honor Cumberland, who died Tuesday.

Several of Cumberland’s friends spoke at the vigil, including civil engineering senior Jacob Roschmann and economics junior Ben St. Martin. 

“I’m absolutely overwhelmed by the turnout tonight,” Roschmann said. “This crowd perfectly demonstrates the amount of lives that Nicky touched.”

Cumberland was a member of the Tau Chapter of Kappa Sigma, Phi Chi Theta and Texas Cowboys. He was a committee member of Genesis, Chase the World and the Student Consulting Initiative, and a member of the National Outdoor Leadership School and UT Cheer. 

“Nicky quickly fell in love with the University of Texas and fell in love with everything that it offered,“ St. Martin said. “Despite his hectic schedule, he always took the time to befriend anyone and everyone.” 

Following a car crash Sept. 30, Cumberland sustained brain damage and was on life support for four weeks. During that time, a GoFundMe was created to cover his medical expenses and raised $150,000 within a month. 

“When people pass, their reputations tend to be polished with absolutes,” St. Martin said. “People use words like ‘sweetest and smartest’ to describe them. But Nicky did not need to pass to earn this description. If you asked those who knew him before the accident, I guarantee the vast majority of them would describe him as the most kind, social and hardest working person they knew.”

During his time at Memorial High School, Cumberland was valedictorian, class vice president and a cheerleader. He was heavily involved, and was a part of the debate team, made videos for the broadcast journalism class and played on the rugby team. 

“Nicky was someone who treated everyone with the utmost respect,” said Jake Groesbeck, Cumberland’s childhood best friend. “It didn’t matter how long he knew you. He would treat you as if he had known you his whole life.” 

Other speakers included Cumberland’s cheer stunt partner Margaret Martin, his pledge brother Brandon Chi and Texas Cowboy Connor Rennick. 

A scholarship fund has been created in Nicky’s honor. An email account, fornickyandclio@yahoo.com, was started so people could send Cumberland’s family and girlfriend memories and stories to read. A drop box in the Business Honors Program Office, CBA 2.312, has been designated for letters to the Cumberlands.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, Nov. 3, from 1–3 p.m. in Chapelwood United Methodist Church at 11140 Greenbay St., Houston. Following that, there will be a celebration of life from 3–5 p.m. at Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Dr., Houston. An official obituary for Cumberland can be found here.

“Nicky was filled with a contagious joy,” Harralson said. “Loving like Nicky will always change the world for the better.”