published Saturday, April 12th, 2014

UTC student found dead in dorm

  • photo
    Emily Wilis and Becca Lauder look out of their window to see what is happening below on Friday. The body of a male UTC student was found in an upper floor of the Walker Apartments on the campus.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith.
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Walker Apartments
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The unexpected death of a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga communications student Friday has left faculty and fellow students confused about the loss.

Around 3:30 p.m., UTC police received a call that Ronald Farrell Jr., a 22-year-old communications major from Memphis, was found unresponsive in his dorm room at Walker Apartments at 801 E. Eighth St.

Farrell, who went by “Big Ron,” hosted his own show called “The Hot List” on Wednesdays for The Perch, a student-run online radio station at UTC, said Nicole Brown, faculty adviser for The Perch.

Farrell “was a great student” no matter how “daunting” or tough his assignments and tasks were, Brown said.

“This is a tremendous loss,” said Brown, who worked with Farrell for about three years.

During that time, Brown said that she pushed him to help him discover his potential, something that he told her he appreciated this past Wednesday, the last time she said she spoke with him.

“I always told him, ‘I see your potential.’ I believed in him,” Brown said.

In addition to his work with The Perch as a host, Farrell also worked with The Perch’s sports team to cover UTC basketball and football games, and had branched off into video broadcasting for UTC’s Mocs News, Brown said.

“After his radio show, they would record a YouTube follow-up segment for Mocs News. They thought they were, and they were, the upcoming Ryan Seacrest,” Brown said, laughing a bit.

Farrell, who had worked as The Perch’s station manager for the 2011-12 academic year, was looking to graduate in December of this year and had an internship lined up for this summer at Chattanooga’s Power 94, Brown said.

“No problems, no trouble, You don’t hear other faculty or students talking negatively about him. Just a team player,” Brown said.

Farrell was also “heavily active” in the UTC chapter of Cru, a Christian student organization founded in 1951 as Campus Crusade for Christ, and you “couldn’t interrupt” his participation with the organization, or his “allegiance” to the ministry and his religion, Brown said.

“I don’t understand why this has happened, but there’s a purpose behind all of this,” Brown said.

There was no sign of foul play or suspicious activity and investigators believe Farrell’s death is due to “medical causes,” said Chattanooga police spokesman Officer Tim McFarland in a news release.

The last time someone died on campus was several years ago, and was a visitor, not a student, said Chuck Cantrell, UTC spokesman.

Chattanooga police will be heading up the investigation, which is ongoing, and information will be released when it’s available, McFarland said in the release.

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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