Hundreds gathered to remember Jennifer Houle, the woman with an “infectious smile.”

A friend of Jennifer Houle holds a candle and receives a hug at the candlelight vigil outside of Coffman Memorial Union on Tuesday. The vigil was held to honor Houle, who went missing March 27.

Juliet Farmer

A friend of Jennifer Houle holds a candle and receives a hug at the candlelight vigil outside of Coffman Memorial Union on Tuesday. The vigil was held to honor Houle, who went missing March 27.

Ethan Nelson, Alida Tieberg, and Taylor Nachtigal

As the sun set Tuesday night, a procession crossed both footbridges over Washington Avenue and filed onto Coffman Union’s front plaza to celebrate and mourn Jennifer Houle, the University of Minnesota student who went into the Mississippi River early Friday morning.

The crowd of more than 1,000 University students, administrators and community members — many carrying candles and dressing in Houle’s favorite color, purple — gathered in front of the student union to pay their respects to the business senior who was set to graduate in May.

Authorities continued searching for Houle along the river on Tuesday, said a Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.

Those who knew her say she was a genuine, happy person who spent a lot of time on her school work.

The Carlson School of Management student was also a member of Pi Beta Phi and the student group Women in Business.

Houle’s sorority sisters carried purple balloons with personal memories of her written on them, which they later released. Several members of the sorority also spoke during the ceremony.

“She remained true to herself. Celebrate her authenticity,” one member said. 

Danita Brown Young, the University’s Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, told the crowd about resources available to help students cope with Houle’s disappearance. 

“This vigil is a simple reminder we are all connected in some way,” Brown Young said. “When we lose a member of our community, we lose a part of who we are collectively.” 

Brown Young encouraged students to contact Boynton Health Service or University Counseling and Consulting Services in a statement Monday.

Members of the University’s crisis response team were available to meet with students at the vigil Tuesday evening.

Houle’s friends say she loved volleyball, softball and traveling.

Journalism junior Hannah Schaefer met Houle during her freshman year. 

Schaefer said one of her favorite memories of Houle was the time Houle brought her to meet her family.

“She was so excited to show that part of her life,” Schaefer said. “She was so proud of where she came from.”

Communications senior Madie Eckstrom, one of Houle’s friends from high school, remembers her “infectious smile and bubbly laugh.”

“She had such a great impact on so many people,” Eckstrom said.

The announcement from police on Monday that said Houle had entered the river was met with an outpouring of emotion on social media from friends and fellow students.

“Such a heartbreaking, tragic time. Thoughts are with Jen Houle’s family and friends as well as the sisters in Pi Beta Phi,” University student Abby Stepanek tweeted Monday morning.

The sorority’s University chapter also posted about Houle on Monday.

“Jen was loved by all and we will grieve her loss for quite some time,” the post read. “She left a positive impact on an incredible amount of people.”

Houle was last seen at Blarney Pub and Grill early Friday morning. Her purse was found shortly after about three blocks from the Dinkytown bar.

Police said Monday that a surveillance camera had captured Houle entering the river from the 10th Avenue Bridge. Authorities have declined to say whether Houle jumped or fell from the bridge’s 4-foot railing.