The Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees awarded a posthumous associate of arts degree in general university studies to the parents of Carson Needham, a student from Traverse City who was tragically killed in a February head-on car crash with a wrong-way driver while returning to campus from downstate.
Needham was in his third year at Northern, pursuing a degree in communications with a minor in music. He played the drums with the NMU marching, jazz and hockey pep bands. He was also a member of the percussion ensemble.
“Music was probably the main factor in his life,” said his father, Dave, after the degree presentation. “He related everything to music, even from the time he first picked up a drumstick. He felt it was magic to him.”
“Carson found family here at Northern, and had a strong connection with all of those people right over there,” said his mother, Cristy, pointing to the friends, band mates and faculty members who attended the meeting to show their support. “He was a passionate person, a leader and someone who always wanted to help.”
NMU student Lauren Mauser, Needham's girlfriend, was with him in the vehicle and sustained injuries in the accident. The two met as freshmen through marching band; she played cymbals and he played quads.
“He was just incredibly giving,” said Mauser. “He thought of everyone above himself. He was so deeply talented. Over the three years I knew Carson, he gave me enough love to last the rest of my life.”
Mauser's mother, Deanee, organized a GoFundMe campaign to help the Needham family with funeral expenses and establish a marching band scholarship in Carson's name.
“So many people loved Carson," stated her introduction. "He was funny, kind, compassionate and helped anyone he could. He selflessly gave of himself in life and death (Gift of Life donor). He has supported our family through so much (Oxford school shooting, sudden loss of Lauren's Grandma, etc.). He still had so many exciting things to do in life. Tragically stolen away from us.”
A Facebook post from the NMU Marching Band reflecting on Needham soon after his death described him as “a skilled percussionist, a fantastic leader and above all else, a friend. His impact on the band, and all of his bandmates, will never be forgotten. As we work through this difficult time, our thoughts go out to his family, friends and loved ones.”
Needham's obituary can be viewed here.