By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
The words on the marquee that greets visitors to Holy Cross High School’s campus March 31 stated that Metro Police Officer Nicholas Rodman, a 2005 graduate, will forever be a hero.
Rodman died March 29, a day after he was injured in a violent crash that occurred as he pursued a suspect.
Inside the school, teachers are remembering Rodman fondly, and students, 12 years his junior, are asking “what was he like?” said Danielle Atzinger Wiegandt, the school’s principal who will assume the role of president later this year.
“When things like this happen there’s the sense that ‘they’re one of us; that could be me,” said Wiegandt, describing how the studentbody has reacted to news of Rodman’s death. “I’m amazed by how connected they feel to someone who graduated 12 years ago.”
Some teenagers at the school have parents in the LMPD, so this “hits home,” Wiegandt added.
Dominican Sister of Peace Maryann Tarquinio, who was a teacher and the principal of Holy Cross when Rodman attended the co-ed school, remembered him as “intelligent” and “fun loving.” She taught him advanced chemistry and recalled, “he did excellent work,” she said.
“He was a very intelligent young man. He was very caring about his classmates. They were a tight-knit group,” she said. She always thought that Rodman “had a great future ahead of him, that he would do great things.”
Wiegandt, who was a teacher at Holy Cross when Rodman was a student there, said she wasn’t surprised to hear he joined in the police chase March 28 that ultimately claimed his life.
“He was the kid who was never afraid to try new things and take risks,” she said, noting that he and many of his fellow Holy Cross alumni, chose to make service to the community a priority in their lives.
“The community (of Holy Cross) has always been servant-hearted. We have so many graduates who go into public service and live a life of sacrifice, which is the Gospel message,” she said. “As Christians, we know that sometimes with sacrifice comes grief. I think that’s why our community has paid such tribute to Nick, because he paid the ultimate price for a life of sacrifice and service.”
Holy Cross faculty, staff and students paid tribute to Rodman in several ways and prayed for him and his family last week. The school community, including alumni, lined Dixie Highway in front of the school on April 1 as a hearse carrying his body and his family passed by the school in procession. The school community also prayed the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary, tied blue ribbons on school columns, sent cards to his family, talked about Rodman during morning prayer and wore blue in his honor on March 31.
Weigandt said she wants his family to know they are in her thoughts and those of others at the school. And, she said, he will not be forgotten. The school plans to honor him in a “permanent” way, but hopes to consult his family first, she added.
In addition to Holy Cross, two local parishes have offered their support to the family of Rodman, a father of two young children. St. Athanasius Church collected $2,300 during a fish fry March 31 for the family.
Good Shepherd Church, 3511 Rudd Avenue, plans to donate all proceeds from the parish fish fry tomorrow to the family. The fish fry on April 7 will be held from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The Record staff contributed to this story.