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Second-Year Student Gwen Tupelo

June 17, 2021
UVA Community
Allen W. Groves, University Dean of Students

To the University Community:

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the death of second-year College student Gwen Tupelo of Charlottesville, who passed away in a car accident on May 27.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Gwen’s family, including her mother and stepfather, Thea and Robert Tupelo-Schneck; her father, Tom Freeman; her brothers, Jonah Tupelo and Henry Tupelo-Schneck; other family members; as well as her many friends and classmates.

Gwen Tupelo

A graduate of Monticello High School (MHS), Gwen excelled academically and found her passion in the theater department as an actor, director, and tech assistant. 

“Gwen directed the student written play ‘Lost Cause’ by Marya Brice,” said Madeline Michel, theater director at MHS. “It was about Confederate imagery, revisionist history, racism, all things that Gwen was passionate about.  There was some backlash from both adults and students, but Gwen was very sure in her convictions that this play was important and that if it offended anyone, that was a good thing. 

“Gwen was also the student who was aware of other students who might have differences that made them feel separate.  Maybe freshmen who were insecure, maybe someone on the spectrum.  She would bring those kids into the group with humor and warmth. . . She had a sixth sense for those who were struggling and always knew how to comfort them.”

Gwen spent her early years in the Twin Oaks Community, an ecovillage and intentional community located in Louisa, Va.  It was there, said Madeline, that Gwen “learned to garden, appreciate nature, and shun materialism.”

Gwen touched many who knew her at MHS and at UVA.  Will Ham, a fellow MHS graduate and second-year student at UVA, knew Gwen beginning in elementary school and spoke in tribute to their deep friendship at Gwen’s funeral.

“If I ever needed someone to vent to, someone to study with, someone who I could talk to without even a hint of judgement, or just someone to distract me with wild stories and music and laughter, Gwen was there,” said Will.

Acknowledging the many friends present at her service, Will told them: “Gwen gave us love and connection so that we could give it to each other.  So please don’t let go of a single drop of that love because she never did.”

The loss of a classmate and fellow member of our community is painful and unsettling, all the more so when our own community is not together during the summer.  If you are a student and need support during this time, you may call Counseling and Psychological Services at 434-243-5150.  CAPS also has posted a one-page resource on How to Cope with Grief and Loss.  Faculty and staff can find a similar resource through the Faculty and Employee Assistance Program and may access services by completing a brief intake form.

Please take care of yourselves while most of you are away from the Grounds, and keep Gwen’s family and friends in your thoughts.


Allen W. Groves
University Dean of Students