Reflections on Sam Price

by Rev. David Dorsey
Multifaith Chaplain Oberlin College & Conservatory 

On behalf of Oberlin College and Conservatory, I extend sincere and deep sympathies, most especially to Adam, Beth, Jonah, and to Sam’s entire family. Beth and Adam, the courage and generosity that I have witnessed in you have been instructive to me, both as Multifaith Chaplain and as parent of a college student. Allow me to say to you, once more, how grateful we are that Sam had you—that you were his>he parents.

If, in Oberlin, last week . . .

. . . the sun seemed all but to disappear…the swings from trees at Tappan stood still and a hush fell over our place…it was to mark Sam Price’s passing and the beginning of a grief that still has its hold. Our spirits are less than half-mast. It is as though the wind has been knocked out of us, and we are slow to return. 

Be assured that, across the miles, we are praying for you even as we welcome your prayers for us.

Last fall, I was leading a workshop among a group of students, a conversation that led up to an activity where students offered up one-liners on the Oberlin culture. As though a marketing firm, students began, one-by-one, to propose a bumper sticker that began, “Oberlin, where . . .”

“When it was Sam’s turn, she read aloud: “Oberlin, where people don’t wear suits.”

There, standing in the front of the classroom, I was wearing a suit. “Oberlin, where people don’t wear suits.” Sam had my attention. My gaze met hers, and there she sat smiling, with a twinkle in her eye. After that session, I asked Sam if I could hear more. She looked at me a bit quizzically, and I shared with her that I was a bit baffled about attire in Oberlin, had been since my arrival, and I thought she might be of help.

We continued that conversation some time later at Slow Train Café, a coffee shop in Oberlin, a conversation that left few stones unturned. We moved from politics to religion, to social habits and, yes, clothes and hair at Oberlin. One thing became clear to me . . . Sam walked in her own integrity.

Her barefoot integrity invited mine. Even if it cost her along the way, Sam walked in her own integrity. Sam could hold up a mirror in the gentlest of ways, almost prophetic—but always with a twinkle in her eye. In every encounter that followed, even from across a room, Sam never failed to greet me with that familiar smile. 

We need more Sams. We need Sam living in us. By her death, I am invited to shed a layer, roll up my sleeves and continue, more boldly, her work: 

To include the excluded,
Ever slow to judge,
To love people whom others can’t,
To uphold the dignity of—in a world where everyone belongs.

At Oberlin there is work to be done, maybe here, to—until all are included, all are fully embraced, no one less than another—until all fully belong. May it be so.

Sam Price living in us. Amen.