University News

University Community Mourns the Passing of Justine Bernard '23

A psychology major, Justine Bernard '23 died on June 2 from injuries sustained in a shooting in Atlanta, where she was visiting friends. The University community will gather at the start of the fall semester to honor Justine and celebrate her life.

June 3, 2021

Justine Bernard '23
Photo of Justine Bernard '23.

Dear Members of the University Community,

I am writing with a very heavy heart to inform you of the passing of Justine Bernard, a psychology major in our Class of 2023. A resident of Matawan, N.J., she died on Wednesday from injuries sustained in a shooting in Atlanta, where she was visiting with friends.

Justine’s adviser Lillie Macias, an assistant professor of psychology, said Justine was a strong student who was very engaged in her classes. “She was motivated and curious, and she was interested in learning and in helping others,” she said.

Dr. Macias said Justine was developing a deep interest in criminal justice and in forensic psychology, and she indicated that Justine had most recently registered for classes that would help inform future work with youth in the criminal justice system. “Her passing is a great loss for the field of forensic psychology,” she said.

“My heart breaks for Justine’s parents, her family, friends, and professors over this senseless and horrific act of violence,” added President Kaplan. “Justine was preparing to commit her life to helping others. Amid our grief, let us honor Justine’s memory by doing our part to make the world a better place. I hope her loved ones and classmates are able to take some comfort in the many memories they have of Justine.”

“From the moment I first met Justine as an incoming first-year student at orientation, she left a significant impression,” said Linda Copney-Okeke, director of our Accessibility Resources Center. “She was a fiercely independent young woman who was so full of excitement to be starting her academic career, making friends, and looking to the future. Justine was a vibrant young woman who overcame obstacles and lived life with passion.”

Grief counseling is available through the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services Office. Students can call to make appointments or seek support by calling (203) 932-7333 Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (an on-call clinician is also available Fridays, nights, and weekends) or by making an appointment through Navigate.

A celebration of Justine's life will be held on Saturday, June 12, at a10 a.m. at the Waitt Funeral Home at 501 Route 79 in Morganville, NJ. A friend of Justine’s mother has created a GoFundMe campaign to help support Justine’s mother during this heartbreaking time. We will plan to gather as a University community at the start of the Fall semester to honor Justine.

Please join me in extending our heartfelt condolences to Justine’s parents, her family, friends, and classmates, and let us commit to honoring the memory of a life lost much too soon.


Ophelie Rowe-Allen, Ed.D.
Dean of Students and Chief Student Affairs Officer