The search for missing Corban student continues as tips lead to dead ends.
Luke Atkinson, 21, was last seen Thursday evening, Sept. 13, in Farrar Hall, his dormitory at Corban University.
Atkinson, who is part of Corban’s cross-country team, was supposed to meet with his teammates on Friday evening to travel out of town for a competition. When he didn’t show, concern of his whereabouts grew.
Since early Saturday morning, Corban officials have been active in the search, contacting Salem police and sending campus-wide emails.
“Today, we searched the campus entirely, including the two 5-mile loops were he might have gone running. It turned up nothing, “ said Steve Hunt, Corban’s marketing vice president and campus spokesman. “Most of the morning we spent contacting friends and family for any information, and that also turned up nothing.”
Laura Grove, Atkinson’s cousin and Corban sophomore, joined other family and friends to hang up posters throughout Salem from around 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. this morning.
Grove, 18, said the family had been getting odd tips from several people claiming to have seen Atkinson at various places. “We’ve had tips that people saw him at the same time in different places,” Grove said. “It’s all very confusing.”
Grove said that she had only seen Atkinson twice since the school semester began. In fact, several students claimed that Atkinson hadn’t been seen much around campus.
“That’s what we’ve been told; that he rarely showed up to any classes,” Hunt said.
Grove said it might have been due to scheduling problems. “At least, I’m assuming that’s why,” she said.
Grove also said Atkinson was sick, with what appeared to be the flu, and could have simply been resting. “He was trying to get better, I knew that much,” Grove said.
Katrina Aman, 18, is also a member of Corban’s cross-country team and has reasons to believe Atkinson was never planning to attend the competition with his team this weekend.
“Luke was injured,” Aman said. “He hadn’t shown up to practice in about a week.”
Aman said that although the injury was minor, it had hindered Atkinson’s performance.
“No one thought it was weird when he didn’t show up to any of the practices this last week because of his injury and of his sickness,” Aman said.
The injury, Aman believes, was either an upper leg injury or just a tightening of the hamstrings. “I didn’t think he was going to go to the meet. If you miss practices, you can’t go to the meets anyway,” she said.
Aman recalled Atkinson being upset over his injury. Aman had also gotten injured. “We were both discouraged a bit by the injury. It held us both back a bit,” Aman said. “But he never seemed too upset, he was motivated to get better.”
Aman admits that when she first heard of Atkinson’s disappearance, she immediately believed he had decided to go back home, back to Guam.
“I knew he missed his family. He talked about them and life in Guam a lot,” Aman said.
Aman said some members of the team had even given Atkinson the nickname Guam.
Atkinson’s immediate family currently resides in Guam, where they serve as missionaries. Atkinson spent most of his young life there.
“I learned so much about Guam during cross-country camp since he talked about it all the time,“ Aman said. “He was very social and everyone loved him.”
Aman struggles to believe Atkinson would have disappeared of his own accord.
“He seemed really happy; he really seemed to like it here. He loved running. He had big goals and worked really hard,” Aman said. “He was always social, always around people. That’s why it was weird that he wasn’t around anyone when he disappeared.”
Aman did notice something particularly odd a few days before Atkinson disappeared, but thought little of it at the time.
“Luke was extremely sociable during cross-country camp and the first week of school. But, during this last week, he seemed a bit put-off when I saw him in the dining hall,” Aman said. “He seemed upset but when I asked him about it, he denied anything was wrong and I assumed he was just tired.”
Now she’s not so sure.
“It’s something scary to think about because he seemed happy, but maybe something else was going on,” Aman said. “And if it wasn’t his choice to leave … that’s even scarier.”
Steve Hunt said they had been getting several tips throughout the day, but none have led to anything yet.
“We’ve recently gotten some more encouraging tips and we’re hoping each one will get us closer to finding Luke,” Hunt said. That included a tip that suggested Atkinson possibly communicated online.
“It’s not confirmed, but he might be somewhere with access to technology,” Hunt said.
Technology has been playing a huge factor in the search for Atkinson.
Atkinson’s family that are in Salem, are trying to inform people of his disappearance through Facebook.
“Facebook is probably our best bet,” Grove, Atkinson’s cousin, said. “We got the area pretty well-covered. Right now, it’s mostly just waiting. We don’t have much else to go on,” she said.
“We’re really grateful for all the support and prayers we’ve been getting,” Grove said. “We hope to find him soon.”
There will be a prayer session for Atkinson tonight at 8 p.m. at Corban University’s campus coffeeshop.
If you have any information regarding Luke Atkinson’s disappearance, please contact Steve Hunt at 503-510-5306, or Corban’s Chief of Security Mike Roth at 503-589-8152.