‘A light at our university’

Senior Communications Studies major Adia Palmer died unexpectedly last month, shocking students and faculty at Detroit Mercy who remember her as a talented writer with a good heart and memorable laugh.

Palmer, 21, was well-known on campus and spent time working in the library and writing for The Varsity News.

Kaelyn Johnson, a former Communications Studies major now studying Theatre, said Palmer was one of the first people she met when Johnson trans– ferred to Detroit Mercy and that they shared many classes together.

“Whenever I walked into the library, I knew I would see her at the front desk and I knew that I could look forward to our small talk,” Johnson said in an interview. “She was very eager to learn about all things film and art. We would talk about our classes and she always asked me about things we were working on in the Theatre Company. She was a light at our university, and I was heartbroken when I learned of her passing.”

A gifted poet, Palmer earlier this year submitted a poem titled “Moving” to the 52nd annual Dudley Randall Poetry competition that wowed her professors enough that they hung a copy of it on the second floor of the Briggs building.

“Adia was fierce but also sensitive,” English Professor Amanda Hiber wrote in a tribute posted by the department. “She spoke her mind but listened closely, too. She was keenly perceptive but completely self-possessed. She was self-protective but capable of great vulnerability. She’d look at you with the utmost skepticism and then break into that laugh. If you knew her, you’d know that laugh. You’d never forget it.”

Professor Jason Roche, who teaches a number of courses in the Communi- cation Studies department, said students loved working with Palmer on group projects.

She was very creative, very thoughtful and just a good person to be around,” Roche said. “She was in one of my classes in winter of 2020 when we had to transition to online learning because of COVID-19. She produced and directed a very memorable video essay project about planting a garden and how it helped her with the stress of the pandemic. Adia had a good heart. She’ll be greatly missed”

Shortly before her death, Palmer began a marketing internship with Farmacy Food, a Detroit-based organization that offers a healthy meal subscription service.

“Though she was only with us for three days the impact she had on us felt like a lifetime,” the company said in a Facebook post.

Farmacy Food said it planned to establish the Adia J. Palmer Foundation for Young Black Women to develop an afterschool program and internship opportunities for Black women in her honor.

“There was a level of professional development and experience we intend- ed to provide Adia, so with her transition, we will now create programming to provide that experience to other young Black women interested in food systems, communications, journalism, and storytelling within the City of Detroit,” Farmacy Food said in the post.

Palmer died on March 16, a day before Johnson expected to see her at the annual Grad Salute event in the Student Fitness Center. Johnson attended her memorial service later that month to pay final respects to her friend and give condolences to her parents.

“Her family received an overwhelming amount of support when she passed,” Johnson said. “She had such a bright future ahead and my heart goes out to the ones closest to her.”