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Campus Service for Student Who Burned Himself to Death

April 6, 1988

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) _ Grief-stricken students and faculty at a college mourned Wednesday as they tried to understand what drove a promising math major to apparently douse his body with gasoline and burn himself to death.

University of South Florida campus police at New College found the body of David Harvey Dunn, 20, of Nashville, Tenn., still aflame a few yards from the shore of Sarasota Bay before dawn Tuesday. They said there was no note.

″We were devastated that we were not able to find him and extend ourselves to him in time,″ said Bob Benedetti, New College provost.

″Because we’ve never had a suicide on campus and he was a person we knew so well in the community, we’re all stunned,″ he said.

″We’re in total shock,″ said Dunn’s father, William, 59, from Nashville. ″There have never been any indications of any suicidal tendencies that we know of. We don’t know anything about any reason.″

A police spokesman said no witnesses had been located but foul play was not suspected.

Classmates remembered Dunn as bright and intellectually curious, but an unhappy person who went through mood swings and frequent depression.

″He was brilliant. If he had academic problems, it was because of his depression. His stress was from that, not from academics,″ said Nikki Cohen, 19.

″He was very extreme, very emotional. He would either be very depressed or very happy,″ said Joanne Dramko, who lived next door to Dunn during the fall term.

Jennifer Hulsey, 19, said it seemed only his artwork made Dunn happy. He drew illustrations for the student magazine.

Mike Alexander, college psychologist, said Dunn had not sought help.

The elder Dunn said his son studied at Memphis State University in the 1985-86 school year and transferred to New College the following year.

New College’s 450 students don’t receive grades but pursue individual studies and are evaluated on their work. The open-structure method of study appealed to his son, Dunn said.

Dunn’s math professor, Soo Bong Chae, described his pupil as ″one of the brightest students I’ve ever seen. And if he could have overcome certain personal problems, I expected great things from him. I was just waiting for him to blossom.″

Dunn’s father said he detected no signs of stress when he last saw his son two weeks ago or when he last spoke to him by telephone Thursday.

″In fact, he was planning on future things to do. Everything seemed normal ... just normal on Thursday of last week.″

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