Fraternity mourns loss of former president

Paul Sand

Will McLaughlin, a University political science student and former Sigma Phi Epsilon president, was killed in a plane crash near Eveleth, Minn. shortly after 10 a.m. Friday.

McLaughlin, 23, a campaign staff member for Sen. Paul Wellstone, was traveling with the senator, the senator’s wife and daughter, two other campaign staffers and two crew members. All eight were killed.

“He was an outstanding individual who truly cared about everything he was involved with Ö he will be missed dearly,” said chapter president Paul Peterson of McLaughlin.

Friends and brothers of the University’s Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter gathered at the chapter house Friday afternoon to remember McLaughlin.

“A lot of us were in denial, just holding out to see if he was one of the (campaign staff on board),” said sports management senior Ryan Molstad.

Mitch Boerner said he learned of the fatal crash from television news reports and was sure McLaughlin was on the plane. Boerner, a political science senior, said he spoke with McLaughlin last night and asked him about the safety of small-engine propeller planes. He said McLaughlin assured him the plane was safe.

“This stuff just doesn’t happen,” Boerner said. “It shouldn’t happen.”

McLaughlin was elected chapter president in January 2001 and served a one-year term. He also served on the Sigma Phi Epsilon national board of directors as one of only three student representatives.

“Will was a very highly thought of student leader on campus, and in his chapter,” said Craig Templeton, executive director of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Templeton said McLaughlin rose through the fraternity’s leadership ranks quickly.

“I know the fraternity meant a lot to him and his family as well,” Templeton said.

McLaughlin’s brother Dave said his family was proud of Will’s work with Wellstone. He also noted his brother’s dedication to the fraternity.

“(He was an) absolutely terrific person who touched a lot of hearts and loved the University,” Dave McLaughlin said.

Molstad said Will McLaughlin began working as an intern in Sen. Paul Wellstone’s office last spring, and was soon asked to become a staff member. He said McLaughlin was Wellstone’s “right-hand man.”

“If Paul or Sheila needed anything, like a ride to the airport or anything, he did that,” Molstad said.

McLaughlin was born in St. Paul, Minn., in 1979 to Judy and Mike McLaughlin. He had four brothers and four sisters.

Molstad said McLaughlin decided to work on Wellstone’s senate campaign instead of returning to classes at the University this fall. He said McLaughlin planned to return to the University next spring, and that he needed only eight more credits to graduate.

Boerner said McLaughlin acted as the house’s cornerstone, supporting and consoling members in trying times.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re sitting here because he should be sitting here,” he said.

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