Matthew Watt ’04 died early last Thursday evening near his home in Riverton, Wyo.
Watt, 20, had spent his freshman year at the College before returning to his home after Spring term in 2001. He had been living with his family and had made plans to resume classes at Dartmouth Spring term.
Law-enforcement authorities found Watt’s body, clad in a T-shirt and pajama bottoms, near an irrigation ditch on nearby Buckhorn Flats after he did not arrive at his job on Wednesday. Fremont County, Wyo. Coroner Ed McAuslan said the cause of death remains unknown, “pending the conclusion of an autopsy in the next few weeks.”
Watt was last seen alive at 3 a.m. Wednesday by a friend he was staying with overnight, according to law enforcement officials. He was not reported missing until 5:49 p.m. that day.
The incident remains under investigation by the coroner’s and sheriff’s offices.
Watt was active in Native Americans at Dartmouth during his time at the College and had remained in contact with a number of students after returning home. He also had close ties to a number of current members of Bones Gate fraternity.
“Usually when people leave Dartmouth for a term they lose contact — but not him,” Andrea Abeita ’03 said. “He was such a big part of everyone in NAD.”
Watt’s caring and sensitive nature was his most dominant attribute, grieving students said.
“He was always happy to share tears with a friend,” Poonam Aspaas ’04 told The Dartmouth. “Now, I will always have a tear for him.”
“He was one of those guys that you could just talk to about anything,” Abeita said.
Administrators who had advised Watt at the College also praised his concern for others.
“He was a gregarious guy who had a lot of friends and a reputation, as a freshman, for watching out for other students,” Native American Program Director Michael Hanitchak ’73 said.
According to students, Watt had been excited about the prospect of rejoining the Hanover community.
“He kept talking about how he was going to come back I know he really wanted to,” Bertina Jones ’04 said.
Services for Watt will be held today at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Wyoming. According to College officials, additional memorial services may be organized in Hanover in the coming weeks.
A few student organizations have already paid tribute to Watt in a less formal manner — at Bones Gate, community members observed a moment of silence in Watt’s honor before Maine band Jeremiah Freed played their final song early Saturday.
Watt graduated from Riverton, Wyo. High School with the most credits ever earned by a senior. He was a tutor at the high school and the first Native American member of the RHS Student Council.
He also belonged to Raising Awareness through Media, Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, Key Club and Native Pride.