Photo by Zach Le
Editor’s note: Traditionally this space in the Perspectives section is used for the Staff Editorial and the ‘Bu Yorker. However, in light of recent tragedies and the effect it has has on the Pepperdine community, we at the Graphic decided to use this space to honor Daniela Benavides and Cameron Johnson through the voices of those who knew them.
This past winter break we lost two members of our Pepperdine community. Freshman Daniela Benavides was lost after a car crash on New Year’s Day, and sophomore Cameron Johnson lost his life while traveling in Ecuador.
It can be difficult during times like these to understand why things happen the way they do. Logically we know that there will always be challenges, but on a certain personal level, logic seems to cease. The worst thing to hear when you’re grieving is that one day it will be OK, because that one day can seem infinitely far away.
Author E.A. Bucchianeri once wrote, “So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.” There is no grief greater than the death of a loved one.
Their time here was short, but they still managed to touch the lives of many around them and truly made themselves known. Daniela, who was in White House and a part of LSA, brought smiles and inspiration to those around her, while Cameron, a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity, was known to be a constant source of laughter and joy to those in Malibu, as well as the Buenos Aires program.
It is important to honor the lives and memories of friends lost. Several of us here at the Graphic had the privilege of knowing Daniela and Cameron, but we felt that it was important to allow others who knew them to speak as well. Below are memories and words from those who will miss them the most. We hope that this will, in the midst of such loss, reflect the incredible way that those at Pepperdine have come together to support one another during such a difficult time.
Photo courtesy of Pepperdine University
In honor of Daniela Benavides:
“Rarely do first year seminar teachers have an incoming freshman like Dani, who singlehandedly inspire and uplift the entire class. I can attest that she brought pure joy to the classroom, and enlivened the spirits of everyone. She brightened everyone’s day, without exception, and made learning not only intellectual, but also fun and collegial. Dani had an uncanny ability to bring joy to everyone’s life, both in and out of the classroom, not only among friends, but total strangers whom she had just met. Dani had a transformative influence on all of us. You couldn’t meet her, and engage in conversation, without being swept away by her radiant smile and compassionate spirit. Although her time with us at Pepperdine was short: her impact was great. May God’s richest blessings, be with all of us who knew Dani, and may her influence for good continue to live and prosper in each of us. I remember Dani saying, ‘What I want to do the most in life, is to help people. I want to be there for them, and share my talents.’ Although brief, she realized this objective at Pepperdine, and we were richly blessed to be the beneficiaries.” – Stephen Davis
“Who can describe crazy Dani in a couple of words? I would say she was positive…she had that crazy laugh that was so contagious to everyone. She was always smiling and bright and she was encouraging.” – Rachael Vogel
“Dani showed everyone everyday how to live life to the fullest. She wasn’t afraid to do the things she loved and she passed that confidence onto everyone age met.” – Jenna Powell
“In the brief amount of time I got to spend with Dani, I was able to enjoy her contagious laughter and her ever-present smile. I met Dani at NSO, and even though we never got the chance to become close friends, whenever Dani saw me, no matter where, she would say hi and strike up a conversation. Her bright spirit and warm heart shone through and she will always be remembered.” – Monica Avila
Photo by Matt Benton
In honor of Cameron Johnson:
“As the visiting faculty member in the Buenos Aires program this year, I was blessed to get to know Cam both in and out of the classroom. My greatest memories of Cam were of his smile, friendliness, encouraging nature, and sense of humor. He was a friend to everyone in the program, and his passing has left a deep hole in all of our hearts. He will not be forgotten.” – Marilyn Misch
“My brother and dear friend Cameron Lee Johnson was simply one of the best people I have ever had the honor or knowing. During his short time at Pepperdine, he managed to touch the lives of so many and leave such a long-lasting impact in the Pepperdine community. Although his death was very sudden, I can wholeheartedly say that this very special young man lived life to the fullest and accomplished everything he put his mind to. With the most carefree and humble personality, he was able to turn any mundane situation into a moment you’d never forget. I can only hope to become half the man that Cameron was. His memory lives on through his friends, family and brothers of Psi Upsilon Fraternity. Our Father called him home earlier than expected, but I know Cam is backpacking through Heaven with his beloved dog Murry by his side. We love and miss you dear brother.” – Karleton Spencer
“Cameron Lee Johnson, I still cannot believe that I will never see your silly face or hear your chuckle again. It hurts so much, but I know that you are safe in God’s (and Murray’s) arms. Cam, you will always be my other, goofy half. You understood me in a way that no one else did. Not only did you understand me, but you saw through me and were able to draw the true Madi out of her shell. Oh how I wish I had thanked you for building up my broken confidence. Our countless stream of insults, ugly Snapchat screenshots, and bachataing will forever be imprinted in my mind. You changed my life. Thank you for the little time that we had. Thank you for always dealing with my tough love. Thank you for being my best friend. And thank you for not listening to me when I told you not to get that tattoo. Until we meet again, mi amor. All my love, Madi” – Madison Hays
“Cam was the kind of person that made everything interesting and funny. No matter if we were surviving 10 hour long work trainings on a Saturday, or discussing who he was going to take to formal, Cam always had something to say that would shock me and make me laugh too loudly. Whatever the word is for the complete opposite of boring, that’s what Cam embodied.” – Jayelle Minor
“Cam was a genuine guy who loved to make people smile. He lived his life to the fullest, always sought adventure, and all who had the blessing of knowing him were taught to do the same. His light continues to shine in these lessons we have learned and the way we live our lives in memory of his. Whenever I see Tom Selleck, I will think of Cam and his ridiculously large and accurate portrait tattoo on his thigh, and I will smile. Thank you Cam for the lessons learned, the memories made and the smiles shared. Love you and miss you. See you soon.” – Jake Bigon