Jill Jess Phythyon
KU News Service

University mourns student Gianfranco Villagomez-Saldana

Tue, 12/10/2013

LAWRENCE – Investigators from the Lawrence Police Department believe a body found Monday is that of University of Kansas student Gianfranco Villagomez-Saldana, who was reported missing Saturday. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and other university officials issued the following statements:

Gray-Little: “On behalf of the entire University of Kansas community, I offer my condolences to the family and friends of Gianfranco Villagomez-Saldana. His loved ones who searched long hours over these past frigid days for a sign of hope also are grieving now, and my thoughts are with them as well.”

Michael Branicky, dean, School of Engineering: “The School of Engineering family is deeply saddened by news of the passing of one of our students. Gianfranco was a kind and beloved student with a keen intellect and a promising future. He was an active member of the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers. We ask the School of Engineering community to come together to support one another at this difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family for their loss.”

Andrea Herstowski, associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Design: "This news is heartbreaking. Gianfranco was a lovely young man with a bright smile and a warm heart. Our thoughts and sympathy go out to all who knew and loved him. He was a gifted young man who was generous with his time and talents, and he will be missed."

Villagomez-Saldana, 23, earned a degree in industrial design in May and was working on an engineering degree. He was from Lima, Peru.

Since September 2012, Villagomez-Saldana worked in the KU Libraries’ International Area Studies as a student assistant for the Spanish, Portuguese, Latin American and Caribbean area.

“Gianfranco brought a broad range of skills and talents to his work,” said Lorraine J. Haricombe, dean of libraries. “He was creative, detail-oriented and dedicated to his studies. Our library colleagues will most remember Gianfranco for his outgoing and friendly personality. His charisma and enthusiasm were contagious, and we will miss his presence terribly here in Watson Library. Our hearts to go out to Gianfranco’s family and close friends at this time of immense loss.”

He was reported missing Saturday evening after he failed to show up at his girlfriend’s house after a party early Saturday. Lawrence Police reported he was found in a yard in the 800 block of Avalon Road about 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Gray-Little also thanked Lawrence Police and all other agencies who assisted in the investigation.

“Although the outcome was tragic, the efforts of the Lawrence Police and others showed how the city and university come together in the interest of our students and community,” Gray-Little said.

An informal gathering to celebrate the life of Gianfranco Villagomez is set for 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13 at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread Ave.

A viewing and visitation will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 at  St. John the Evangelist Church, 1229 Vermont St. Mass will follow at 2 p.m.

Matt Menzenski, a graduate student in Slavic languages & literatures, took this photo during President Obama’s speech at KU Thursday. Menzenski says he was struck by how relaxed the president was in his delivery. He missed a chance to hear former President Bill Clinton speak in his hometown in 2004, but finally got to see a sitting president this week at KU. “The opportunity to hear the president speak is just one of many great opportunities I've had at KU. So many interesting talks and events happen here all the time. I try to attend at least one a week-- it's never hard to find something interesting to go to.” Tags: University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts and Sciences KU School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures KU Dept of Slavic Languages - Friends & Alumni Barack Obama The White House #exploreKU #POTUSatKU

Explore KU: The Bells of Mount Oread KU’s Campanile, a 120-foot-tall timepiece that tolls automatically on the hour and quarter-hour, not only sounded in the 2015 New Year at midnight with 12 mighty gongs, but also regularly rings up memories for many Jayhawks – the 277 faculty and students who gave their lives during World War II, the graduates who walk through its doors at commencement, and aspiring students who have strolled through the Lawrence campus. (See For nearly 60 years, KU’s 53-bell carillon has been tolling the sounds of peace and serenity across Mount Oread since it was installed in June 1955 inside the landmark World War II Memorial Campanile, which was dedicated in 1951. (See The carillon is also a four-octave musical instrument, which is played with a giant keyboard and foot pedals. University Carillonneur Elizabeth Egber-Berghout (, associate professor of carillon and organ, climbs 77 steps up a spiral staircase in the bell tower to perform recitals several times a month.

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