By Juliana Fidler
Students and faculty attended the “Ride for Brian” on Wednesday, Sept. 30 in honor of Brian Deppa, a mathematics major and biology minor at the College who passed away this past August. He would have been a senior this year.
The participants met at Quimby’s Prairie to begin the 26-mile bicycle ride through some of Deppa’s favorite sites, and other family members, friends, faculty members and classmates gathered for the brief memorial that preceded it.
Assistant Dean of the school of Science Patricia Van Hise, the coordinator of the event, said there were 20 cyclists and about 25 other supporters present at the send-off.
“Brian saved a lot of PDF files about the rides he enjoyed doing up here,” said Jeff Deppa, Brian Deppa’s brother. He said that the files “mentioned specific spots” such as Washington Crossing, which was part of the cyclists’ route.
Van Hise was originally Brian Deppa’s advisor when he began at the College as an open options science major. She came up with the idea for the event based on their “shared love of cycling,” which was a frequent topic of conversation between the two, she said.
After deciding to hold a bicycle ride in Deppa’s memory, Van Hise asked Judit Kardos, assistant professor in the Mathematics Department and Deppa’s later advisor, to help plan it.
“His presence was still very vivid while we were organizing this event,” Kardos said. “This might help people deal with his loss.”
Along with the ride, Van Hise, Kardos and the Deppa family collected from those present more than $600 in donations to charity: water. This organization provides “clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations,” according to its Web site.
Deppa once attended a fundraiser for a charity named charity: water and met some of the people involved with the organization, said his younger sister, Lisa Deppa.
“He thought it was a trustworthy way to help people,” she said.
A few weeks prior to the ride, Jeff Deppa and his father, Tim Deppa, did a test run of the trail.
“My dad did a lot of the route planning,” said Lisa Deppa. She noted that this required a second attempt when the first route proved too dangerous for bicycles.
Before the ride began, Van Hise spoke to the crowd about her former advisee.
“Brian was part of our lives and always will be,” she said. “Today we celebrate Brian’s life.”
Van Hise then invited Tim Deppa to speak. “We’re really honored and happy to see such a wonderful turnout,” he said.
He praised the College for its part in his son’s life.
“Brian was always comfortable here. He never second guessed his decision to come here,” he said, adding that his son “found a lot of kindred souls here” and had “only positive things” to say about the faculty.
“It’s a very difficult struggle, but we now understand this grief is something we have to deal with,” he said.
However, he said that he and his family are grateful for the 22 years they were able to spend with Deppa.
The ride, he said, was “a little bit of a lift” in the months following the tragedy.
“We really appreciate the support of everyone here,” he said.
Jeff Deppa agreed, “The College was the biggest force in getting the event together.”
Members of the Math club attended the ceremony, assisted with sign-ups and helped Kardos provide snacks for the cyclists to eat at Nature Center in Washington Crossing.
Two groups took off from the College. One, led by Van Hise, was set to travel at about “13 to 14 miles per hour,” she said. Curt Elderkin, assistant professor of biology, led the faster group. The combination of Deppa’s interests and passions was “the best way to honor him,” said Jeff Deppa.
Deppa’s friend, junior biology major Camille Deering, echoed this sentiment.
“Brian was a very active person. He was always biking and going places,” she said. She added that riding through a park was appropriate because nature is “something he was definitely passionate about.”
“It’s a nice closing of things,” said Natascha Israel, also a junior biology major and friend of Deppa.