Maura’s Voice Marks 5 Years with Symposium and Memorial
November 2, 2023, marked five years since the hate crime shooting at a Tallahassee yoga studio that took the lives of then-FSU student Maura Binkley and FSU College of Medicine professor Dr. Nancy Van Vessem. Four other women were wounded. The victims were targeted for no other reason than being women.
The tragic event sparked a need for Maura's parents, Jeff and Margaret Binkley, to found Maura's Voice shortly after to work to counter hatred in all its forms and violence against women and girls in the Tallahassee community and communities across the United States.
On November 2 of this year, the College of Social Work, College of Medicine, Tri Delta Sorority's FSU Chapter and the FSU Student Government Association collaborated on Maura's Voice Fund for Research and Policy Symposium, followed by a memorial in the Durell Peaden Auditorium at the College of Medicine.
The symposium brought together leaders and researchers from across campus and within the Tallahassee community to discuss the research generated by scholars and students thanks to support from the Maura's Voice Research Fund.
The participants in the research symposium included Dr. Jim Clark, FSU's provost and executive vice president, who, when acting dean of the College of Social Work, was integral to the establishment of Maura's Voice. Other panelists were from the FSU College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, including Associate Professor Dr. Jill Turanovic and doctoral students Willis Shaw and Sarah Wouters.
Panelists discussed pivotal research milestones, including the TRAP-18 case study on the incel extremist responsible for the 2018 shooting written by Dr. Clark and Dr. Chris Collins, now an assistant professor at Salem State University.
Dr. Turanovic also discussed her recent research on Florida red flag laws used to identify individuals with a history of violence to remove firearms from their position and her interest in how these laws are implemented across the state and who is using the laws.
"Everyone is here for a reason with a shared sense of Justice," said Willis Shaw, who has recently begun working with the Antidefamation League, thanks to collaboration with Maura's Voice. "I have never been more hopeful as we are thinking on our toes and in the right direction," he noted regarding the increasing collaboration between public education and institutions with a shared concern for ending incidences of hate crimes and mass violence.
The event's second panel included speakers discussing policy directed at addressing radical extremism, the gun violence it fuels and its relationship to violence towards women and girls. Among the panels were Representative Anna Eskamani of Florida State House District 21, Patrick Crough, program director of the Targeted Violence Prevention Program within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Emily Snider, a senior project manager with the Antidefamation League along with Jeff Binkley.
"What we're doing," Binkley told ABC 27, "is looking at expanding the depth and the scope of research into hatred, violence extremism, into areas where when we started this there were gaps."
Following the symposium, friends, family, colleagues and members of the Tri Delta sorority gathered to remember Maura and Dr. Van Vessem.
Memorial speakers included FSU Provost Jim Clark and President John Thrasher, FSU president emeritus and faculty at the FSU College of Law whose support and his wife Jean were integral to establishing Maura's Voice.
Friends and colleagues of Dr. Nancy Van Vessem who spoke included FSU Senior Associate Dean of Students Dr. Shelly Ducatt and Capital Health Plan Internal Medicine Physician Dr. Lynn Jones. Both spoke of the importance of remembering the legacy of dedication and supported Dr. Van Vessem and Maura, exemplified through their lives and legacies.
This message was echoed in remarks from student Autumn Anderson, the director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the FSU Student Government Association and Tara Gray, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion chair for Tri Delta's FSU Chapter.
Maura's loving legacy of helping others was brought to life through poignant recollections from her best friends, Gabriella Giammarco and Sydney Schaefer. The memorial concluded with words from Maura's father, Jeff Binkley and from Dr. Adelina Emini whose song "A Force United (Maura's Song)" was played.
"I think she would be very happy with what we've done," Mr. Binkley remarked in an interview with ABC27. "She'd prod us to do more. Her sisters from Tri Delta really stepped up; these young women are our future."
The event's emcee and co-organizer, Sydney Carrow, are among those influential Tri-Deltas who continue to collaborate Mr. Binkley and with the College of Social Work to perpetuate the memory of Maura and Dr. Van Vessem and strive for a world without hate.