Eleanor Thompson and Ja’Mel Reed, third-year students in the College of Arts & Sciences, will remember classmate and friend Rehan Baddeliyanage, a beloved fourth-year student who participated in Double Take last year and died in March while hiking in a Puerto Rican rainforest with friends during spring break.
Other speakers will include Provost Elizabeth “Liz” Magill and Kimberly Acquaviva, Betty Norman Norris Endowed Professor of Nursing (and the author of last week’s moving “On Words” essay that reflected on the death of her wife, Kathy Brandt).
One day after his Oct. 19, 2018 swearing-in, Ryan participated in the first “Double Take” event. He shared the moving story of meeting his birth mother for the first time. “It was at a rest stop on the Garden State Parkway,” he said to a hushed audience. “It was 2013. I was 46.”
Ryan went on to share the story of his adoption. It was arranged through Catholic Charities and thus closed. His adoptive parents picked him up from the hospital when he was just nine days old. He was wearing a hand-knit Irish wool sweater and a medal of Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers.
Ryan’s adoptive mother asked a nun where the items came from. Tearing up, the nun said she could not say. “I can only tell you that they come from someone who loves him very much,” Ryan recounted.
This is Ryan’s full talk.