Student’s suicide leaves USF ‘deeply saddened’
Published: Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 09:03
With only a few weeks remaining in the spring semester, the body of a USF student was discovered after he committed suicide on campus Tuesday morning.
Jeff Morrill, an investigator with the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office, said the death was confirmed as a suicide by hanging.
The 29-year-old graduate architecture student, identified in a University Police (UP) report as Mark Andrew Ratliff, was found in a remote wooded area at 7:45 a.m. UP spokesman Lt. Chris Daniel said Ratliff was found near Spectrum Boulevard.
According to the report, Ratliff's vehicle was found in a nearby parking lot and a note was discovered at the scene.
Robert MacLeod, director of the School of Architecture, said he was informed about the discovery by Provost Ralph Wilcox and College of the Arts Dean Ron Jones. He said the loss of Ratliff is devastating.
"Students in the school of architecture are all a closely knit group," he said. "They work very closely together."
MacLeod said Ratliff was in his final semester of studies and a "very good student" who had come to his office a number of times over the past two years to "inquire about different things."
"He struck me as an exceedingly kind and really sweet person … (it's) what I've really heard from everyone," he said. "I think people are really taken aback by this."
He said a friend of Ratliff's had visited an adviser within the School of Architecture and expressed shock over the death.
"We've met with students who (were) in the same classes as Mark (Tuesday) afternoon and counselors from Student Affairs were there," MacLeod said. "We distributed literature and explained briefly what had happened. I think (everyone) needs time to process this."
He said students shaken by Ratliff's death should reach out to faculty, staff and counseling available on campus.
Lara Wade, University spokeswoman, said in a statement that USF is "deeply saddened by (this) death."
"Because of the tragic nature of this incident, we want to reach out to faculty, staff and students to remind everyone about the array of resources available to provide counseling and support through the USF Counseling Center and through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP)," Wade said in the release.
She said services offered to students through the USF Counseling Center include individual and group therapy, psychiatric evaluation and medication management, educational outreach and crisis intervention.
Students can contact the USF Counseling Center by calling 813-974-2831, and the EAP services can be accessed by calling 1-800-327-8705.
MacLeod said it's important not to go through this alone and everyone should "have an ear" they can talk to.
"He's clearly a really good person," he said. "And we want to honor his memory. I think that's the most important thing we can do."