Annual whistle ceremony honors lost lives

The Institute’s ROTC stands at attention in front of the Tech, Georgia, and U.S. flags prior to the beginning of the ceremony. // Photo by Tyler Parker Student Publications

On April 6, Tech held its annual “When the Whistle Blows” ceremony to honor members of the Tech community that passed away during the previous year. 

Starting in 2001, the Institute has held this ceremony every year, barring COVID-19, to honor active faculty, staff and students that passed away in the last calendar year. Usually held in Harrison Square, the ceremony took place this year in Clary Theater due to rain. The event began with a gathering in the lobby of the Bill Moore Student Success Center, where guests could remember the individuals to be honored at the ceremony to come. As soon as the time struck 5 p.m., bagpipes began to play in honor of the deceased, and the attendants processed into the auditorium, with friends and families processing in last and occupying the front four rows.

Once inside, Ajanta Choudhury, undergraduate vice president of SGA, welcomed the attendees to the ceremony. “We’re here today to honor, celebrate, and pay our respects to the Yellow Jackets whose lives were lost in the past year,” Choudhury said. 

“They have positively impacted us and the broader Georgia Tech community, and nothing can take away the fact that we are stronger and wiser and better for having known them,” Choudhury said before handing the podium off to Kirby Criswell, the current Mr. Georgia Tech.

Criswell gave a brief overview of the event’s history, and acknowledged the contributions from multiple parts of the campus community to the ceremony. He then welcomed President Ángel Cabrera to the stage to give his remarks. 

“We come together as families do to celebrate the lives of the people who we have lost,” Cabrera said. “Just as they were part of your lives, they were part of our campus community,” he said to the attending families and friends of the deceased. Cabrera discussed the contributions of the faculty, staff, and students to the Institute and how they improved our community. 

Cabrera then described the significance of the whistle to the Tech community and how the 21 whistle blows later that evening would honor all those who have passed.

President Cabrera then introduced Luoluo Hong, Vice President for Student Engagement and Well-being, and Criswell to the stage to start the next segment of the ceremony. 

Each honoree had a candle lit at the ceremony by someone close to them. Hong and Criswell called the names of each honoree and their candle lighter, who would then light their respective candle and receive a replica of the iconic Tech whistle on their behalf. 

Starting in 2006, the GTRI Machine Services department has created a brass replica of the whistle for each honoree, inscribing their name and part of the alma mater on the bottom of it. 

In total, 20 candles were lit and 20 whistles were presented at the ceremony, honoring seven students and 13 faculty and staff members.

Choudhury returned to the podium and welcomed the Tech Treble Choir to sing the alma mater, followed by 20 whistle blows for the ceremony’s honorees and an extra one for all the alumni and retired faculty and staff that had also passed in the previous year. “Our main focus is making sure that we do them proud by this tradition,” said Jillian Cruser, Senior Institute Event Coordinator, on the purpose of the ceremony for the families and friends of the honorees. 

“It shows you how much people mean to one another on this campus,” Cruser said.

Cruser also mentioned that the “When the Whistle Blows” Ceremony is the kind of event the Institute does not want to have to host, but is proud of Tech for honoring the community members sincerely each year with it. 

A recording of this year’s ceremony and a list of its honorees can be found online at specialevents.gatech.edu/wtwb.