Phi Kappa Psi holds candlelight vigil to kick off Safe Driving Week

Phi Kappa Psi holds candlelight vigil for Safe Driving Week

The SU fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, is raising awareness against distracted driving and fundraising for Hunter's Fund.
Published: October 12, 2021
Syracuse University students gathered outside Hendrick's Chapel for a candlelight vigil in honor of Hunter Brooks Watson and Vincent Gian Maugeri, two brothers of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity who lost their lives to distracted driving.
Syracuse University students gathered outside Hendricks Chapel for a candlelight vigil in honor of Hunter Brooks Watson and Vincent (Vinny) Gian Maugeri, two brothers of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity who lost their lives to distracted driving in 2016.

The night was dark and Hendricks Chapel loomed tall, but Phi Kappa Psi‘s brotherhood shined.

On Monday night members of Syracuse University fraternity held their annual candlelight vigil to commemorate the start of Safe Driving Week and remember the lives of Hunter Brooks Watson and Vincent (Vinny) Gian Maugeri, who both lost their lives in distracted driving accidents. 

The philanthropy chair of Phi Kappa Psi, Isaac Reisman, spoke at the ceremony on the steps of Hendricks.

“Both Hunter and Vinny are a true embodiment of what it means to be a friend and brother,” Reisman said.

The fraternity strives to preserve Watson and Maugeri’s legacies during a weeklong safe driving initiative that is now recognized at 31 other college campuses. 

Fellow philanthropy chairs Griffin Kervick and Noah Swift emphasized the importance of this event in the scope of the greater Syracuse community. Swift said that not only are they honoring the impact of Watson and Maugeri on Phi Kappa Psi, but any lives lost to distracted driving. 

“By getting awareness out, we can really prevent people from texting while driving, from driving while intoxicated and things like that,” said Kervick. “It’s something that needs to stop happening.”

Psi Upsilon Fraternity vice president Rocco Fanelli teared up as he said that his friend Maugeri was the reason he wanted to come to Syracuse, and urged the crowd to not do anything that would jeopardize their lives. The strong sense of community and friendship were evident as other students rushed to embraced Fanelli after the ceremony. 

Jerry Watson, Hunter’s father, shared fond memories of his son including Hunter’s love of music, computer science, and entrepreneurship while he was a student at SU. 

He said that Hunter’s death is something that changed his family’s life forever, and urged the audience to follow their passions and dreams.

“You will never again experience this moment of youth,” he said. 

Jerry’s speech was followed by the lighting of candles and a moment of silence. About 150 fraternity brothers and community members attended the event.

Syracuse University students gathered outside Hendrick's Chapel for a candlelight vigil in honor of Hunter Brooks Watson and Vincent Gian Maugeri, two brothers of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity who lost their lives to distracted driving.

A photo of Hunter Brooks Watson was held during the vigil.

Syracuse University students gathered outside Hendrick's Chapel for a candlelight vigil in honor of Hunter Brooks Watson and Vincent Gian Maugeri, two brothers of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity who lost their lives to distracted driving.

Two Syracuse University Students embrace during the candlelight vigil on Monday.

Phi Kappa Psi has held Safe Driving Week since 2016. Philanthropy chair Will O’Shea said the fraternity’s two goals are to raise awareness against distracted driving and fundraise for the Hunter Watson Memorial Fund. Their goal is to raise $25,000 this year, and they’ll also be hosting tabling events Tuesday and Wednesday for students to sign pledges against distracted driving.

Jerry Watson stressed to the crowd the importance of signing pledges. He said that studies have shown that people are 47 percent more likely to change their driving behavior.

The SU chapter of Phi Kappa Psi has set the benchmark at 2,000 pledges for other chapters to match.

“We’re trying to help save lives,” O’Shea said.

Syracuse University students gathered outside Hendrick's Chapel for a candlelight vigil in honor of Hunter Brooks Watson and Vincent Gian Maugeri, two brothers of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity who lost their lives to distracted driving.
Jerry Watson (center), the father of Hunter Watson, speaks to the crowd at Monday night's vigil.
Avatar for Katie Hopsicker

is a graduate student in the Arts Journalism program and a Digital Producer for The NewsHouse.

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is a photographer for The NewsHouse.