Several members of the campus community gathered in the Allen Drawing Room on Thursday, Oct. 3, to remember Ryan Fesko, who was killed in a car crash on May 17, 2003, the day following last semester’s graduation.
The memorial, rescheduled from Sept. 19, after the campus-wide blackout, drew a standing-room only crowd.
Some came in suits and some came in jackets and ties. Others came in jeans and sweatshirts while some came straight from class, but all came to remember the life of Fesko.
Family and friends exchanged hugs, kisses and soft words before the ceremony.
While the ceremony was to celebrate Fesko’s life rather than mourn his death, it was clear that there were still deep wounds in the community.
Fesko, who was 23 at the time of his death, was remembered by College President R. Barbara Gitenstein in her opening remarks as a person who had always had close ties to the College, as both of Fesko’s parents were graduates and teachers at the institution.
Fesko’s stepfather, James Brazell, professor emeritus of English, found the inspiration for his words in literature.
Quoting Tennyson, he said of his relationship with Fesko, “It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”
Brazell said, “with his loss, his legacy becomes stronger.”
During the service, speakers identified qualities that made Fesko so beloved. He was remembered as a gifted athlete and social butterfly, who was always with friends around campus.
Fesko, who had aspirations to become a teacher, substitute taught at the Fischer Middle School in Ewing Township. His loss, Gitenstein said, was one felt by the whole community.
Richard Farber, chair and professor of educational administration and secondary education, in prepared remarks delivered by Brazell, remembered Fesko as a leader who gave back to his community by volunteering to teach basketball to children at Fisher Middle School.
Fesko was even asked to present his volunteer work at the White House. “He left us with a spirit of nobility,” Farber said.
Joseph Herzstein, professor emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science and Fesko’s advisor, said Fesko was not innately gifted with academic or athletic ability, but instead with a strong work ethic.
Jennifer Jaremback, who graduated from the College in 2003, was a friend of Fesko’s and said that there was, “a selfless quality about Ryan that made him such a great friend.”
Jeremback said that Fesko “loved to make others happy,” and that he was “rich and full of life.”
Another friend and 2003 graduate of Rider University, Danny DeFilippo, who survived the crash that took Fesko’s life, said, “If he could make a good time better, he did.”
While his mother, Kathy Fesko Brazell, remembered that Fesko’s life was “rich and unique,” and this was “not a day to be filled with grief or full of sorrow,” she spoke with a choked voice and tears in her eyes.
Fesko Brazell said, “The world seems out of place without him.”
“No words can eradicate a loss of this type,” Herzstein said.
Fesko was also honored in song. Junior Colleen Gill performed “Think of Me,” from “The Phantom of the Opera,” with senior Erik Ransom, and accompanied by sophomore Shannon Hall.
The service ended with a rendition of Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind,” which was also performed by Gill and Hall.
It was announced that funds from the TCNJ Foundation – Fesko Fund would be used to create a frieze and detail to embellish the stained glass window in the Meditation Chapel in the new Spiritual Chapel.