Honoring Ryan Mak

Ryan Mak, captured in a moment at the Hilltop. PHOTO COURTESY OF
ZOE WANG/ASUSF SENATE

USF students and community members gathered at Gleeson Plaza on Sunday night for a memorial service honoring Ryan Mak, a senior politics major who died on Aug. 18, aged 22, due to a blockage of blood vessels in his heart. 

Mak’s friends, peers, and mentors came together in their shared grief and immense gratitude for having known him. 

Mak was a beloved student, brother, friend, and Swiftie who was actively and passionately engaged in the USF community. “Ryan passed the most resolutions of any senator since ASUSF’s creation during his tenure as pre-law representative, passing over seven resolutions,” ASUSF Senate said in a statement to the Foghorn. “However, Ryan’s campus involvement transcended ASUSF. Ryan became the Secretary of the Philosophy Club, a competitive debater in Model UN, and a participant in the Culturally Focused Clubs Council. Ryan’s mark on campus was irreplaceable and will be left on this University forever.”

As Director of Debate Robert Boller put it, “Ryan Mak was an outstanding human being; precocious, radiant, and kind. He was moral and brought out the best in those around him.”

Those in attendance gathered around a display of photos of Mak and printed out comments from his MyKeeper page, where people have left meaningful messages to him and his family, and funny stories, memories, or inside jokes they shared with him. 

The memorial was organized by Khloe Ollison, a sophomore politics major, and Rainee Konda, a junior psychology major. Both knew Mak through the Philosophy Club. 

Despite only knowing Mak for a short amount of time, Ollison and Konda  acted quickly to organize the memorial, as they felt the need to properly recognize him and his accomplishments. “A lot of people are currently mourning, but I just hope that this can be a space where people can share their memories with Ryan,” Ollison said. “That way he won’t be remembered just in sadness, but that joy and happiness that he brought.” 

“At this age, we would never expect one of our friends to pass away so suddenly,” said Konda. “I will miss him so much and I’m so thankful to have met him and have someone so loving and kind as one of my best friends.”

Some attendees stood before the crowd to share their sympathies and talk about how they knew Mak. Many recalled his love of debate and his ability to view things from multiple perspectives, and how every conversation with Mak left them with new ideas and thoughts.

One of his many accomplishments, Mak, along with select members of the Debate Team, attended the Pepperdine University debate tournament in October 2022. At the tournament, “Ryan befriended a host of French military officers that were serving as mentors,” Boller said. “These were very serious people, serving in high level positions in the French military, and responsible for directing thousands of servicemen. Ryan was so charismatic, outspoken, and persuasive, that he was able to draw out the officer’s humanity and humor and catalyze a hilarious conversation that brought us together.” 

His understanding of politics was “sophisticated and tempered by a deep sensibility to human rights and justice,” Boller said. “He was driven by a vision of a righteous world.”

Mak was a tournament finalist and won the Kid’s Choice Award after presenting his ideas to a group of middle school students who attended.

While every person’s experience with him was different in terms of longevity and intimacy, everyone there shared an equal admiration for Mak and his passion for empowering and improving every space he found himself in, and the people he met there. 

The memorial’s preparations were supported by Events Management, Student Leadership and Engagement, and University Ministry. 

According to ASUSF Senate, “In honor of his dedication to his academics, Ryan will be receiving his Bachelors of Arts degree in Politics with minors in Legal Studies and Peace and Justice Studies posthumously during December graduation.”

Those who wish to commemorate Ryan can publish a tribute at mykeeper.com/profile/RyanMak/.

Students who would like support processing this tragedy can schedule an appointment with USF’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) by calling (415) 422-6352 or at myusf.usfca.edu/caps. For immediate crisis support, call the CAPS All Hours Line at (855) 531-0761. 

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