Students raise money to honor murdered fashion student

Erica Mohler sits on the swing Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, she hopes to dedicate to her deceased friend, Taylor Pifer. So far, $3,000 of the $5,000 needed to dedicate the swing has been raised.

Jenna Kuczkowski

Nearly five months after a Kent State fashion design student was found dead in her mother’s North Royalton home, friends have begun to raise money to dedicate a bench swing outside Rockwell Hall in her honor.

On June 11, Taylor Pifer was found dead along with her mother, 45-year-old Suzanne Taylor, and her sister, 18-year-old Kylie Pifer, who studied biology at Bowling Green State University.

George Brinkman Jr., 45, is currently being prosecuted for the role he allegedly played in the triple murder. After months of pre-trials since his arraignment on June 30, where he pleaded not guilty, Brinkman will go on trial in March 2018.

Over the summer, Erica Mohler, a former Kent State student and close friend of Pifer, reached out to the university looking to see if a memorial bench or garden would be possible. She began working with Valoree Vargo, the senior associate vice president and COO of advancement operations at Kent State, to discuss what could be done to honor Taylor.

“What they were talking about doing was having a bench put in outside of Rockwell for Taylor when it just so happened this wonderful swing was already in the plans,” Vargo said. “Everyone went and looked at the swing, (and) they loved it, so we decided that this was what we wanted to dedicate to Taylor.”

The bench swing is located just feet from Rockwell Hall on front campus, where Taylor would have started her senior year in August.

Vargo said the timing of this happy accident was perfect because she convinced Mohler to wait until November to start fundraising so they could partake in the university’s donation program “Giving Tuesday.”

During the fundraiser, which runs through November, campaign initiatives will receive an extra $500 from the university for every 15 unique donors of $25 or more raised. On Nov. 28, all donations raised will be matched by the university up to $1,000.

Mohler, who had known Pifer since Fall 2015 and began rooming with her in Fall 2016, said she thought of the idea for the swing after she missed the funeral.

“I wished for a place to go and visit and think and talk to her, but there wasn’t really a place to go,” Mohler said. “I talked to a lot of her friends, and they felt the same way, even if they had went to the funeral.”

As of Wednesday, the donation page has raised nearly $3,000 of its goal of $5,000.

“There has been so much support, and I am so thankful and blessed,” Mohler said.

Vargo said the amount to dedicate something like a bench in someone’s honor varies but usually costs about $5,000, which must be raised. Excluding the cost of a plaque, the $5,000 will go into the general Fashion School fund. Anything in excess of $5,000 will go directly to scholarships for fashion students.

Jenna Kuczkowski is the managing editor. Contact her at [email protected].