I was privileged Thursday to be invited to address the UW System Board of Regents in Madison on the tragic death of UW-Stout student Hussain Saeed Alnahdi on Oct. 31. Regent President Regina Millner also discussed Hussain’s death, which followed an attack in downtown Menomonie on Oct. 30. I thought you might be interested to read both of our remarks:
Regent President Millner’s remarks to the full Board of Regents
Nov. 10, 2016
Thank you. Before we get started this morning, on behalf of the Board of Regents and President Cross, I would like to express our deepest condolences to the family, friends and others who knew Hussain Saeed Alnahdi. His death last week was a tragedy, not only for his family and friends but also for our communities. By all accounts, this young man from Saudi Arabia was an enthusiastic, well-liked and a valued member of the UW-Stout campus community, and it is clear he will be missed and remembered. I take heart in the strong message coming from both the campus and Menomonie community recognizing that so much more draws us together as people than divides us. As many have said, “This is not us.”
Chancellor Meyer’s remarks to UW System Board of Regents
Nov. 10, 2016
Thank you President Millner for allowing me a few minutes to discuss with the board, and its guests, an incident near campus that is so deeply tragic that words are insufficient to describe it but also illustrates the magnificent ability of a campus community to pull together, put aside any difference and to give comfort and assistance to grieving family and friends some 7,000 miles away.
The darkest day of my tenure as chancellor was Oct. 31 when I was told that Hussain Saaed Alnahdi, a bright and passionate young Saudi Arabian student of 24, had died as the result of injuries sustained in a violent attack in downtown Menomonie the day before. Much has been written about the incident, so I won’t go into the details. What I want to talk about is Hussain, what he brought to our campus and the way our campus has responded to his tragic passing.
I have spent hours and hours with Hussain’s friends in the last week and have heard about his gregarious spirit, keen sense of humor, love of America and deep bonds he forged with anyone he met, both Saudis and Americans.
It did not matter to Hussain if you were Saudi or American — if you had the capacity to laugh and enjoy life, you were his friend forever. He was truly color-blind when it came to friendship, which was obvious when you saw the UW-Stout students, some wearing the traditional white Saudi dress and the Americans in jeans, who took the podium last Thursday night to pour their hearts out over what Hussain meant to them and the heartache they now are experiencing.
Although I wouldn’t wish this tragedy on any chancellor, my spirits continue to be lifted by the fact that we have been deluged by expressions of sympathy, support and offers of assistance from across the state, nation and world.
On our campus, our students, faculty and staff have pulled together to comfort each other, collectively discuss our loss, and try to find some ray of hope each day. We have heard from state and national leaders from both parties, our alumni and my colleagues in the UW System. President Ray Cross made the trip to Menomonie on his own volition last Thursday for Hussain’s memorial service, and I continue to hear how much everyone appreciated his presence and his words of comfort. Regent Tyler visited campus on Tuesday to attend a session on intercultural competence in times of crisis and I appreciated that as well.
I would be remiss if I did not mention a few efforts that continue to be priorities for me in the wake of this tragedy.
First of all we are doing everything we can to help the Menomonie Police Department solve this crime. The city and the Stout University Foundation have teamed up to offer a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the assault. Another $5,000 reward is being offered by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Anyone with information about the assault is asked to call Menomonie police investigator Kelly Pollock at 715-231-8511.
I am also helping Hussain’s friends establish a memorial in his honor on campus. A memorial fund has been established to remember the joy and happiness that Hussain brought to our campus. Please contact the Stout University Foundation if you are interested in donating to the fund.
As you can imagine, this is an especially unsettling time for our international students, so I have asked the campus and the Menomonie community to reach out to those students to provide them comfort and a sense of support and security at this difficult time.
Finally, I just to express from the bottom of my heart my gratitude and appreciation for every email, note, phone call and other message I have received since Oct. 31. Our campus knows that you all stand with us in our time of tragedy.
Thank you very much.