Missing student, faculty member found

By Alexandra Kukulka

When members of the Columbia community go missing, the college aids in the search to find them.

Recent efforts focused on professor emeritus Bernard Wideroe of the Art & Design Department, reported missing Oct. 8, and DeLontay Cooper, a freshman fashion studies major, reported missing Oct. 23.

Both have been found, according to Robert Koverman, associate vice president of Safety & Security. However, Wideroe, 74, died from a heart attack Oct. 24.

Wideroe was an acclaimed architect and sculptor who began his career at Columbia in 1986 as a full- time faculty member in the Art & Design Department. He first taught in the Interior Design program and then shifted to the Fine Arts program in 2000, until he retired in 2006. His pieces were exhibited numerous times, including in the 2001 exhibition “Sculpture in

Chicago Now” at Koehnline Museum of Art in Des Plaines.

Attempts to reach Cooper were unsuccessful, and Koverman said he could not go into detail about the search because of privacy issues.

According to Koverman, the college doesn’t usually look for missing professors unless the person is active on campus or another member of the community asks Safety & Security to inform the college of the person’s disappearance.

“In [Wideroe’s] case, he had a space in Art & Design,” Koverman said. “He was here a lot, and he was a fixture on campus.”

Koverman said the college follows certain procedures to find missing students. The level of Safety & Security involvement in missing student cases hinges on whether the person lives on or off campus, he added.

After a missing person call is received, campus security launches an initial investigation. If the student lives on campus, security officials visit the student’s dorm and talk to friends about the situation, Koverman said.

During the investigation, security asks when the person was last seen, where he or she lives and collects his or her emergency contact information, which aids in the search process, he said.

“Typically, by the time we finish those interviews and phone calls, we find the person or the person turns up,” Koverman said.

If the student cannot be found after the initial search, he said someone close to the missing person must file a missing person’s complaint at the local police department.

Once the complaint is made, Koverman said he asks the person who called the police if he or she want his office to make fliers to distribute on campus.

“[Hanging the fliers] is how we learned where [Cooper] was,” Koverman said. “Someone saw the poster and said, ‘I know where he is.’”

Koverman said hanging the fliers is the most effective way to find missing students. If a student is still missing after fliers are posted, Campus Safety & Security will advise the parents to call local hospitals. The fliers stay up until the student is located.

Koverman said the procedure changes slightly if the missing student lives off campus. Campus security does not visit the student’s home, but they do call the local police near the student’s home to check up on him or her.

According to Koverman, students need to respect check-in calls from their parents and keep their cell-phone charged.

“It’s just thinking about safety, and it saves folks a lot of worrying,” Koverman said.

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