Geology student remembered for enthusiasm

Jessie Hellmann

Enthusiasm was one of USI student Gwynn Loving’s,31, most prevalent qualities.

“She was really enthusiastic,” geology professor James Durbin said. “She had a camera, and she took pictures like nobody I’ve ever seen before.”

He said on a geology field trip to Kentucky, she had taken close to 110 pictures on her digital camera.

“She was complaining to me bitterly a little bit, because she never got to be in any of the pictures that she was taking ,so I offered to take pictures of her doing geologic stuff,” Durbin said. “ And I said, ‘make sure you send those to us’, and now it’s not going to happen,”

Lovings, 31, died at the scene of Southeast Third and Locust street when she was struck by an SUV Sept. 20.

“It’s like somebody reaching into your heart, and grabbing it, throwing it on the ground and dancing on it,” he said. “It just sucks.”

Lovings was born in Perry, Ga., but she spent the majority of her life in Texas. She loved to learn, and was fluent in three dialects of Spanish. She came to USI to become a biochemist, but decided to change her major to Geology.

Lovings was a student in Durbin’s Geology 261 course. He said Lovings had a way of lighting up the whole class.

“I know she had a great, what I would call a wicked sense of humor,” Durbin said. “Really funny, really sharp witted.”

He said before class started students would talk or be silent.

“Then she’d pipe up with some smart aleck comment that would catch me off guard, and get the whole class laughing,” Durbin said. “Which was a positive attribute. You wanted someone in your class like that. “

He said his class took her death hard, and he did also.

“It’s hard for me to grade papers,” Durbin said. “I have papers of hers that I was grading at the time, what can you do except try to remember the good things about her.”

Geology professor Tony Maria said he can always picture Lovings running somewhere flashing a big smile.

“I think she was happy,” Maria said. “She’s just one of those people that you remember because they’re so cheerful and smart. Someone that you miss a lot.”

Maria said Lovings took his Introduction to Physical Geology class and he said she always sat in the front row and asked deep, thought provoking questions.

“A lot of students would ask questions that would suggest they just didn’t read the material or didn’t get it, but her questions always told me she got it,” Maria said.

He said Lovings has a perspective and edge about her, which made the suddenness of her death extra hard.

“The phrase tragic is used pretty loosely these days,” Maria said. “People will call every death tragic, but I don’t think that’s true necessarily. Every death is sad, but this is one of those I think it’s really tragic.”

Maria said he had the feeling Lovings had been searching for what she wanted to do for a long time, and that suddenly she found it.

Durbin said he feels the same way.

“I think based on the conversations I’ve had with her it seemed to me there had been a lot of things that had gone wrong in her life early on, and those things had apparently finally been put behind her,” Durbin said. “She was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and then this happens.”

Geology instructor Carrie Wright first met Lovings to explain why she missed a test.

“She came in, and she was in the middle of telling me, and she was in mid-sentence,” Wright said. “She was just drawn to the rocks in my office. She said ‘What’s this? Where did you get this?’ Her enthusiasm was incredibly infectious.”

Wright said Lovings was very enthusiastic about geology, and so Lovings grabbed the opportunity to drive the class on a field trip in Illinois to the Ben E. Clement museum in Illinois.

“She had all these questions and brought back a ton of rocks,” Wright said. “Later on she told me she was considering a major in geology which was very exciting. So it was very disheartening to hear about her untimely death, and I will miss her.”

Wright said that on the field trip, Wright got off the bus to look at the sparkly sandstone on the side of the road, and Lovings was the only student who accompanied her.

“The only one of 15 students, and I thought to myself ‘you need to be a geology major,’” Wright said. “So I will always remember that. Just how she was so enthusiastic and interested.”

“She finally found what she was looking for,” Durbin said. “At least she got to do that before her life was taking from her, and that’s no trivial thing. Everyone should be that fortunate.”