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The Pepperdine community honors and grieves the loss of Niamh Rolston, Peyton Stewart, Asha Weir and Deslyn Williams at Firestone Fieldhouse on Oct. 22. Faculty members shared heartfelt memories of teaching the women over the past three years.
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Photo by Rachel Flynn, The Graphic

‘Their light will shine on’

Pepperdine University holds memorial for four students killed in collision.

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MALIBU, Calif. — The Pepperdine University community is mourning the loss of four students also known as the “four angels.”

Pepperdine students, faculty, community members and relatives gathered Sunday at the Firestone Fieldhouse to hold a memorial service in honor of four beloved young women: Niamh Rolston, Peyton Stewart, Asha Weir and Deslyn Williams.


Related: Four Pepperdine students killed in crash


The Pepperdine seniors were killed last week after being struck by a vehicle on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said the crash happened around 8:30 p.m. Oct. 17 after a driver lost control of his black BMW and sideswiped three parked cars before fatally striking the victims, along with two others who were hospitalized.

Floral arrangements in the shape of angel wings welcomed guests as they arrived at the memorial ceremony. Guests were encouraged to write a memory or prayer for the families of the four women. “These four girls are angels,” Aubrey Lewis said about her friends during the memorial service on Oct. 22.

Floral arrangements in the shape of angel wings welcomed guests as they arrived at the memorial ceremony. Guests were encouraged to write a memory or prayer for the families of the four women. “These four girls are angels,” Aubrey Lewis said about her friends during the memorial service on Oct. 22.

Authorities arrested Fraser Michael Bohm, a 22-year-old man, on suspicion of four counts of murder, setting his bail at $8 million, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“We’re here to remember well the lives of who my wife affectionately calls ‘our girls,’” said Eric Wilson, lead minister for the University Church of Christ, who opened the memorial service.

The service included Wilson; Helen Holmlund, assistant professor of biology; Regan Harwell Schaffer, divisional dean of the Business Administration Division; religion professor Dyron Daughrity; Tim Spivey, associate vice president for spiritual life; President Jim Gash; and friends and family of the four women.

The deaths of Niamh, Peyton, Asha and Deslyn are an inexplicable loss for not only the families but the entire Pepperdine community, Schaffer said.

“Thank you for sharing your daughters with us,” Schaffer said.

“The beauty of having small class sizes is that we know who is present, and for us, most heartbreakingly now, we know who is absent.”

Gash sat on the front right side of the auditorium, visibly emotional, periodically wiping his eyes. He shared that a memorial of light will be installed on campus to give continuous tribute to the four students’ lives.

What the faculty cherishes most at Pepperdine is the opportunity to go through life with students, Schaffer said. Faculty often host student groups in their homes — they worship together, travel abroad through International Programs and build close-knit communities together.

“The beauty of having small class sizes is that we know who is present, and for us, most heartbreakingly now, we know who is absent,” Schaffer said.

Friends’ reflections

Seniors Aubrey Lewis, Bridget Thompson and Coco Crandall, all close friends of the four women, reiterated the love, confidence and optimism that Niamh, Peyton, Asha and Deslyn embodied and showcased unconditionally to every person with whom they interacted.

“I keep looking and expecting to see her (Niamh) there, and you know I can’t see her anymore,” Lewis said. “I do know she’s there still.”

Pepperdine faculty, friends and family of Niamh, Peyton, Asha and Deslyn gather after the memorial ceremony Sunday. There is an emptiness felt by the community since the passing of four remarkable women, Schaffer said.

Pepperdine faculty, friends and family of Niamh, Peyton, Asha and Deslyn gather after the memorial ceremony Sunday. There is an emptiness felt by the community since the passing of four remarkable women, Schaffer said.

Thompson, the roommate of Niamh, Peyton and Asha, said she lived life day in and day out with the three women.

“I went with them everywhere,” Thompson said. “This (the crash) is the one time I wasn’t with them.”

Members of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department, including Capt. Jennifer Seetoo, attended the memorial service.

Hope Dease led the Lord’s Prayer, and Waves Worship followed with two songs: “Lift You High” by Housefires and “Same God” by Elevation Worship.

Families’ reflections

Parents of the four women shared treasured memories of their beloved daughters.

“Niamh wasn’t shy to tell people she loves them,” said Niamh’s father, David Rolston.

Niamh’s father shared about her love for travel and excitement for meeting new people everywhere she went.

Alpha Phi Sorority sisters of Niamh, Peyton, Asha and Deslyn left a card and flowers at the memorial service. Many students and faculty members brought flowers for the families of the four angels.

Alpha Phi Sorority sisters of Niamh, Peyton, Asha and Deslyn left a card and flowers at the memorial service. Many students and faculty members brought flowers for the families of the four angels.

Following Barry Stewart, Peyton’s younger sister, Kathleen Stewart, talked about her sister’s heart being too big for the world.

“To the outside, Pepperdine is a beautiful place, but the real beauty is on the inside,” said Asha’s mother, Vinita Weir.

Pepperdine has gone beyond what was expected for the victims’ families, said Deslyn’s father, Desmond Williams.

“One thing I take away is that they went together as a friend group, and they died together as a friend group,” Williams said.

Since news of the fatal crash broke, the word has spread internationally, Spivey said. Niamh, Peyton, Asha and Deslyn were no doubt intelligent women, but Spivey pointed out these women also left a lasting impact of goodness on the world.


Related: One hurricane, two churches


“They were full of goodness, like the fruit of the Spirit type,” Spivey said.

Spivey encouraged those grieving to turn to prayer. He quoted Romans 8:26-27, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

“This week we lost four bright lights on our campus. But not forever, we will be with them again.”

Gash ended the memorial ceremony reiterating the university’s 2023 theme of light, which is inspired by Matthew 5:14.

“This week we lost four bright lights on our campus,” Gash said. “But not forever. We will be with them again.”

Going forward, there will be a permanent display of four bright lights on campus, Gash said.

Gash concluded with a prayer: “No matter what we face, you are still on the throne, you are still in control, and no evil can ever stand against you for you alone have won the final victory,” Gash said to God.

“This tragedy is not the final word. You are the author of life.”

Reprinted here with permission; this article originally appeared in the Graphic, Pepperdine University’s student newspaper.

Filed under: car wreck Christian colleges and universities fatal crash Malibu memorial National News Partners Pepperdine University Top Stories

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