College honors Ryan Alley, former student memorialized

Ryan Alley. (Photo courtesy of the Alley family)

Ryan Alley, a junior international business and Russian studies double major who passed away after a single-car accident last semester, was memorialized during a service in the Spiritual Center on Friday, Oct. 12.

The memorial service was held in order to celebrate Alley’s life and the impact he had on his friends, family and the College.

“We should take time to cherish the moments that are truly meaningful,” said R. Barbara Gitenstein, president of the College, as she began the service talking about Alley’s “remarkably optimistic” and “risk taker” character.

After Gitenstein’s introduction, Benjamin Rifkin, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and director of Russian studies, spoke about his experience with Alley in the field of Russian. He laughed while reminiscing on a Russian karaoke night that Alley participated in   here at the College.

“He was the social glue of the Russian class,” Rifkin said. “He walked right in and made it for himself,” despite being a transfer student.

Rifkin stressed Alley’s passion for the Russian language and his need for total immersion in it.

“His size was a metaphor for his enthusiasm for Russian,” Rifkin said referring to Alley’s height that often led to people calling him a giant.

Following Rifkin, Alley’s advisor, Erica Kalinowski, shared some of her fond memories of him.

“I’m incredibly grateful for having gotten to know Ryan,” said Kalinowski after telling a story about a coincidental meeting with a transfer student two weeks ago who used to be tutored by Alley and shared a fondness of him.

The service included two readings and a performance of a Coldplay medley by I-Tunes, an a capella singing group at the College.

The memorial concluded with reflections from Alley’s close friend Mike Chou, his fiancé Katie Nguyen and his mother Bonnie Alley.

“He was very humble, very open-minded, very positive,” Chou said. “He knew respect and taught it to me well.”

Chou lightened the mood by joking about what was like to be Alley’s housemate and acknowledged his thirst for education, saying, “he was always dreaming of working towards a better life.”

As Nguyen took the stand, she tearfully explained that Alley “had the most beautiful personality” and also touched on the subject of his desire to expand his knowledge.

Nguyen called on Alley’s friends and family to “carry out Ryan’s dreams, because he was a dreamer.”

“I’m so thankful for the time that I had with Ryan because I had the most wonderful memories with him,” Nguyen said. “He has left a mark on my heart forever.”

Alley’s mother Bonnie finished the ceremony by speaking about her son’s sense of humor and his quest to follow his dreams and not settle for the status quo.

“He showed me how important it is to laugh, even when life is hard,” Bonnie Alley said, following a story about the struggle she continuously has using YouTube after her son changed the language from English to Russian.

“He had a heart that matched his 6’7” frame,” Bonnie Alley said as she discussed her hopes to follow Ryan’s lead, to laugh, tell the people she cares about that she loves them and do good deeds for others.

“I miss him a great deal,” Chou said, “and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget him.”