By Wayne Boykin II
“Ryann connected well with students,” said Julie Starkey, assistant dean for Campus Life. “The relationships he formed were what defined him as an area coordinator.”
“Ryann always put a smile on my face,” said Kerianne Russell, junior. “A bad day would come along, and he would be there to help brighten it, even if that was just sitting in the Banks office and listening to me.”
Soon after Schmidt’s death, a Facebook page was created for people to tell stories and remember the good times with him. The group now has 547 members. But the Facebook page was only the start in celebrating Schmidt’s life. At the request of students and staff, Campus Life and the resident advisors coordinated a memorial service at the college. They suggested people wear red in honor of Schmidt’s love for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. Dulany Banquet Room was set up like a dorm lounge with couches and chairs, and more than 80 students, faculty and staff attended and shared their stories.
Faye Burchard, dean for Campus Life, began the service by saying she realized after hearing stories from students the day before that the Schmidt she knew was different than the Schmidt the students got to know. She described Schmidt as a team player and a go-to guy.
Many students shared memories of Schmidt’s competitive trash talking and how he would jokingly tease them. Others told stories of how helpful and caring he was. President Gerald Brouder also spoke at the memorial and gave his condolences.
Schmidt’s funeral was held in St. Charles, Mo. When students expressed interest in attending but worried about the long travel and transportation, Burchard and the Campus Life staff arranged a bus to transport students to the funeral. About 70 to 80 students boarded the bus while the resident advisors rode in a Columbia College van. Burchard said, “We didn’t want too many students traveling alone.”
Schmidt’s father spoke at the funeral and thanked Columbia College for all it did for his son. He said his son cared about his job and the students. He then spoke about Schmidt’s family at Missouri Valley College where Schmidt played soccer and served as hall director. Near the end of the service, a video created by Raghav Poudal, Columbia College student, was shown. The video included a photo montage of Schmidt set to Elton John’s song “Candle in the Wind.”
Becca Kunce, junior, said, “Although the campus is not quite as bright as it was prior to Oct. 25, we united and stayed together just as Ryann would want.”
Julie Freebersyer, Schmidt’s fiancée, said on the Facebook page that because of donations in his honor, she and Schmidt’s family were able to purchase the biggest brick available at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals. Freebersyer said the brick will read, “For Love of the Game Ryann K. Schmidt-Sports Fanatic May 29, 1983-October 25, 2009.” Sue Schmidt, Ryann Schmidt’s mother, said via Facebook that in April 2010 a tree will be planted in Forestwood Park in Ferguson, Mo., where Schmidt played and umpired baseball games.
Photo courtesy of Campus Life.