Inaugural run to honor alum killed in accident draws faculty, students, fellow alumni

From left, Caleb Huber (BE'13), Associate Dean Cynthia Paschal, Kyle Langford (BME'17), Bryan Langford and Janice Langford at Justin's Run 4 Hope. (Photos courtesy of Cynthia Paschal)

Justin Langford was a mechanical engineer with a passion for music and a compulsion to help people in need.

He chose Vanderbilt University, his father said, because he knew from the moment he stepped onto the campus that it was a place to develop in all the areas he wanted. And he did: as a member of the NASA-award-winning Aerospace Club, the V-Squared mentoring program and the Vanderbilt Variations a cappella group. Langford interned for three summers with Indianapolis-based Allison Transmission, and when he graduated in 2013, went to work there.

A year later, he was gone – the victim of a rollover accident during a calibration test on a flatbed truck, just outside Flagstaff, Arizona.

On Saturday, 700 people gathered to run 4 miles, walk a mile or even just make a “kids dash” across a field in Whitestown, Indiana – anything they could do to remember Langford and the values he treasured. Many of those at the inaugural Justin’s Run 4 Hope were faculty, alumni and students of the School of Engineering, a gift that Bryan Langford, Justin’s father, found overwhelming.

“Just to see the Vanderbilt family come together to honor Justin and — more importantly — bond together in community for this special purpose, was deeply touching,” he said, pausing to gather his thoughts.

Kyle Langford finishes the 4 mile run.

His younger son, Kyle, plans to graduate from Vanderbilt in 2017 with a biomedical engineering degree, and several of his friends attended the race or wrote notes of encouragement.

Kyle didn’t choose the university because his older brother was a graduate, Bryan Langford said, but both the Vanderbilt experience and Justin’s death deeply affected Kyle’s future plans.

“As Kyle was seeking schools, he had his own criteria,” Bryan Langford said. “Kyle wanted to study biomedical engineering, but Justin’s accident and watching medical teams in action convinced him to follow his early thoughts of ultimately becoming a physician. He will be taking the MCAT in a couple of weeks.

“The community and family of Vanderbilt has been terrific for Kyle. He loves sports and being part of the SEC community. Plus, with the connection to the School of Medicine, he has participated in research and countless shadowing opportunities. He has also been very engaged with service-based organizations — tutoring, mentoring and serving in the local community.”

Funds raised from Saturday’s run will go to a School of Engineering scholarship in Justin Langford’s name, plus another scholarship to be awarded a student from his other alma mater, Zionsville Community High School in Indiana, who wishes to study and pursue a STEM field.

Associate Dean Cynthia Paschal said she was eager to participate in the event, having known Bryan Langford since 2010 in his role on the school’s advisory group, providing insight into the pharmaceutical industry. Kyle Langford was in her biomedical engineering class last fall.

A poster reveals the recipients of some of Justin Langford's organ donations.

“What impresses me about the Langford family is that they wisely addressed and continue to address their grief by finding love and support in their faith, in each other, and in others. Then, once they were grounded and stabilized, they actively sought ways to give back to others in honor of Justin’s life,” she said.

The 4 mile length was intentional, Bryan Langford said, as a way to emphasize the numeral in Justin’s Run 4 Hope. But since the distance also is a bit longer than a typical 5K run, it signifies something else.

“Justin was always one to do more. He couldn’t see someone in need or hurting and not go beyond the call of duty, supporting and being there for that person. He went the extra distance,” Langford said.

That generosity even extended past his death — to the 25 people who benefited from Justin Langford’s organ donations.

This was the first year of what will become an annual event. Those who were unable to make the run and want to support the scholarship may send donations to: Justin David Langford Scholarship, Vanderbilt University, PMB 407727, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, Nashville, TN 37240-7727.

Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
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