‘A light put out too soon’: Remembering friend, mentor, leader Cody Petzold

By Oona Goodin-Smith

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The Oakland University community is mourning the loss of 21-year-old senior, campus leader, and friend Cody Petzold after he died from severe head trauma resulting from a motor vehicle accident at a construction site near the entrance ramp at 12 Mile Road and I-75 on the morning of Friday, Dec. 26. An autopsy by the Oakland County medical examiner revealed that alcohol was a factor in the crash.

“A shining light was put out way too soon,” Cody’s mother, Susan, told WXYZ News. “He was a creative soul in every way and dedicated himself to everything 110 percent.”

About to begin his final semester of undergraduate study this January, Petzold was a member of the Honors College studying Human Resources Development and earned a 3.99 GPA during his first year on campus and the 2011 Credit Union One COS Award which covered his freshman year tuition, books and room and board, according to the Oakland University website.

Petzold also graduated as valedictorian of his class at Holly High School in 2011.

“Cody was a highly regarded scholar and student leader at Oakland University and the news of his death has saddened our campus community,” said Glenn McIntosh, interim vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this most difficult time.”

“He was absolutely brilliant and he didn’t even have to try that hard,” said one of Cody’s closest friends, senior Bria Ellis. “He was one of those people who would finish a test in thirty minutes when it took everyone else three hours.”

As a resident assistant, new student orientation group leader, peer mentor for Oakland’s Center Multicultural Initiatives, University Housing academic peer mentor and former vice president of the Gay Straight Alliance, Petzold “held every visible leadership role on campus,” according to McIntosh. He also formerly worked as an executive assistant at the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce and as a Chrysler Corporation intern.  

“He was always heavily invested in the success of the students he served,” Director of Housing Jim Zentmeyer told oakland.edu.

It is perhaps for this connection with his classmates and his zest for life that Petzold will be best remembered at OU.

“He was so full of energy and light,” said Petzold’s friend and GSA President Becca Reichenbach, recalling a trip to Windsor with Ellis and Petzold. “I can’t stop thinking about all the fun we had. We were 19 and 20, so it was incredibly odd to go out to the clubs, but we paraded the streets like we owned it.”

“He always made an entrance in a room,” Ellis said. “Even if it was you entering the room, he would be the one making the entrance.”

“He was just a really loyal friend,” she said.  “Even if you only came in contact with him two or three times, he still would do whatever it took to help you out. How many people are like that anymore?

A visitation and celebration of life ceremony were held at Lewis E. Wint & Son Funeral Home in Clarkston Dec. 30 and 31, respectively, where Petzold’s friends compiled “Letters to Cody” with memories and messages from those he impacted. 

His family asks that donations be made to the Oakland University Gay-Straight Alliance.

The Center for Multicultural Initiatives (CMI) will be holding a vigil in remembrance of Petzold on Thursday, Jan. 8 at 6:00 p.m. in Banquet Room B in the Oakland Center.

According to the CMI Facebook page, the vigil will be student-oriented, where students will be invited to share their testimonials about Petzold. It will not be a candlelight vigil.

For more information, contact Director of the Center for Student Activities Jean Ann Miller at [email protected]