The Physics Building is on McCormick Road.
Tommy Gilliam, as his family called him, is second from the right, with his younger brothers, James and Benjamin, his mother, Vicki, and father Tom.
PHOTO COURTESY GILLIAM FAMILY
Thomas W. Gilliam IV's last day alive had been "magnificent," says his grandfather. The 19-year-old UVA student went to church with his grandparents and his father, who was in town for dental work from Ireland, where the family lived. They went out to lunch and then he worked on his resume with his dad. They went to a performance of Celtic Woman at John Paul Jones Arena Sunday night, March 27, and dropped Tom off at his dorm at 10pm.
"He said he had to finish a paper," says Tom Gilliam Jr., the young man's grandfather.
Two hours later, he was dead, the victim of what authorities believe was an accidental fall from the roof of the Physics Building.
"He slipped and fell," says his grandfather.
An emergency call came in at 11:15pm, Gilliam was taken from the McCormick Road building at 11:38pm, and he arrived at the UVA Medical Center at 11:43pm, where he died.
"At this time, we do not believe that either foul play or alcohol were involved," says UVA spokesperson Carol Wood in a release. "Nor do we believe that this was a suicide. Investigators believe it was a tragic accident." An autopsy is being performed.
UVA police are investigating the incident, and issued a statement Monday night that the east door of the Physics Building was compromised, and that Gilliam entered through that door and opened the main door to let in other students.
"Unfortunately, with the snow and rain on Saturday and Sunday, the roof of the Physics Building was especially wet and slippery," says Lieutenant Melissa Fielding. "When Mr. Gilliam tried to walk along a part of the shingled roof, he was unable to keep his footing and fell 40 feet to the concrete below."
Fielding also says, "We are aware that there is a group of University students who try to enter secured spaces on Grounds as part of a challenge. They do so illegally and at great risk to their personal safety."
A website entitled "The Bold and the Ruthless" details how to access forbidden spaces at the university, including the Physics Building.
"As far as we know, [Gilliam] had no affiliation with our organization," says Steve Norum, a fourth-year student with the Bold and the Ruthless who calls exploration of UVA's secured spaces "very very common."
While extolling the rooftop views and providing steam tunnel maps, the website informs students that trespassing is a Class 1 misdemeanor and offers a contact number if someone is lost or stuck, but urges dialing 911 if anyone is injured.
"This is certainly a great tragedy," says Norum, who advises, "Always remember safety; and ask, 'Could this potentially end badly?' If so, don't do it."
Will Gilliam's death change the thrill of entering forbidden places?
"If you look at all the college activities people do, people die from drinking," says Norum. "They still do that."
Gilliam spent his early years in Charlottesville, where his grandparents live. He attended Meriwether Lewis Elementary in Ivy through the fifth grade, says his grandfather. Then his parents, who are missionaries, moved to Dublin, Ireland, seven years ago, and he graduated from secondary school there. He returned to Charlottesville to attend the University of Virginia, where his father was a 1985 graduate and a 1990 graduate of Darden.
The first-year student was enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences and wanted to be a foreign policy major, according to his Facebook page.
"He was an outstanding boy," says Tom Gilliam Jr. He was going to be a resident advisor in his dorm next year, and had been invited to march in UVA President Teresa Sullivan's April 15 inauguration ceremony.
"It's one of those horrible, horrible events of life," says his grandfather, who lost his youngest grandson in a drowning accident about three years ago. "It's just a very, very sad situation."
Updated March 29 with additional University Police information and the Bold and the Ruthless.
Correction: Gilliam attended a private school in Ireland, not a public one as originally reported.
A University of Virginia student fell from the roof of the Physics Building last night and died from those injuries.
An emergency call came in at 11:15pm. The student was taken from the McCormick Road building at 11:38 pm and arrived at the UVA Medical Center at 11:43pm, where he died.
The name of the student has not been released, and UVA police are investigating the incident, according to a release.