I first became acquainted with Ryan at an MPA orientation meeting. As fellow economics graduates, we immediately hit it off peppering each other with questions about our respective experiences in economic theory and analysis. We enjoyed our econ conversations regularly after that and formed a bond based on the conversations we had. I think I speak for us both when I say that we were delighted to find that we were assigned to the same MPA group, along with Scott Selen, Kiley Hunt, and Moises Costa. In a strange turn of events, this team adopted the name of J-Pop in reference to Ryan's preference for Japanese Pop music. And in an stranger turn of events, the Kanye West song "Stronger" became our team anthem, but Ryan's interest in the song were mostly focused on the Daft Punk auto-tuned background portion of it and also that the cover of West's album "Graduation" was designed by a Japanese artist. Nevertheless, Ryan had the song downloaded on his computer, and in times of need (usually late at night somewhere in the Tanner Building), he would get a sly smile on his face and turn-it-up! Playing the song reminds me of Ryan and makes me smile, so I have included it below.
This group had greater influence on my experience in the MPA program than I would first realize, and my friendship with Ryan was at the center of this.
During our first year, Ryan and I were both seeking a challenge outside of the basic MPA economics course and made a proposal to our professor, Dr. Walters, to write an academic paper in lieu of our class work. Our proposal was accepted after we developed a project plan outlining a semesters worth of activity that would be considered qualifying for class credit. We couldn't have been more pleased and immediately set to work.
Ryan and I not only spent class time, but also spent considerable time outside class working together on this project. We enjoyed this project immensely and relished the freedom it gave to explore the limits of our skill and knowledge. Our efforts involved considerable time examining the body of research behind microfinance economic theory, cleaning and preparing our data set, considerable thought into developing and econometric model, analyzing data, and writing the paper. Through the process, Ryan and I developed a close relationship and mutual respect for each other. The last message I sent to Ryan in was November 2016 after taking a moment to reread our paper:
I just reread our microcredit study and was reminded how good of a job we did. Amazing to think that probably my best piece of work was back in grad school. Still something I'm very proud of. How is married life treating you? And how is work... I think a saw a linked in update recently. I'm still at EPA and have a one year old son now. -11/4/2016
I am saddened that I didn't follow up with Ryan after this. Having been several years since our paths had last crossed, I was not aware of some of the challenges he was grappling with. With the news of his passing, I was deeply saddened.
Along with his sense of humor and intellectual sides, Ryan was also a deeply compassionate and considerate individual who I always admired. In my experience, Ryan was always generous toward others. With Ryan's passing, my thoughts and prayers are with his family (and friends) that you will feel healing from your loss and that his legacy and memories will be preserved in your hearts and minds.
Sunday, January 8, 2017
I first met Rachel in the MPA program in 2007. (Most of the MPA folks would know me as Brad Carmack; I took my wife’s name when I got married in 2014). Early on, Rachel stood out to me as a thoughtful, bright and conscientious person. Her comments in class and participation demonstrated engagement and a grasp of the skill or knowledge we were gaining. I recall her being particularly good at maths.
I didn’t get to spend much time with Rachel after the first year, however, since I joined the joint degree program and did my first year at the law school when my MPA cohort began year two. During my last year in the joint program, after Rachel had graduated, I reached out to her for feedback on a book I was writing at the time about Mormons and homosexuality. I didn’t hear back from her until five years later, on Facebook.
Sorry I couldn’t find one of Rachel- the closest I could dig up is a
contemporary with me and some of the MPA crew
It was then that we connected on a deeper level. We discussed many topics that are often sensitive: religion, sexuality, gender, ableism, how transparent to be about one’s authentic self and personal journey. We discussed religious freedom, and Rachel spoke out in support of the campaign to protect BYU students from being expelled, evicted, and terminated by BYU for their religious beliefs. Around this time, Rachel came out in a couple of ways, and began to be more open and public about her views and identities. I admired her courage.We also discussed mental health: I remember one particular conversation about spoon theory that Rachel had quite a lot to say about (spoon theory is a metaphor used to explain the reduced amount of energy available for activities of daily living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness). The perspective she provided helped me understand her internal experience more.
We also talked about meaning and purpose in life, and how to go about volunteering and work. Throughout these conversations, one thing I valued about Rachel was her ability to express herself and articulate concepts in a wide variety of domains: a testament to her intelligence and commitment to learning. This, combined with her sensitivity (I like the phrase Troy used: “pure love”) and contemplative approach to issues and decisions, made me highly value her perspective and our relationship.
I knew Ryan while he earned his MPA degree. I remember him as a kind, warm, intelligent, genuine, and sincere person. He was willing to help classmates, help with projects and service. I appreciate that our lives intersected, even though the time was short. May his journey continue with ever greater peace and love.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Ryan has one of the warmest, kindest, most-welcoming, energetic, and contagious smiles. This was the first thing I ever saw, knew, learned, and appreciated about Ryan. I was privileged to be one of Ryan’s many classmates. I never worked directly with Ryan on a team project or assignment, but I was aware of him, observed him, and appreciated Ryan’s contributions. One particular interaction stands out to me in addition to my very positive first (and last) impression of Ryan.
At one point during the semester, Ryan was thinking about buying a new car. We had talked about this briefly in passing one day. Perhaps a couple months later, I asked him how his new car was – Ryan was still looking! He then proceeded to tell me all the different sources he was using to research the most desirable, functional, practical car as well as the criteria he had set up in looking for his car. I was floored! Not only did this have much to do with who Ryan was (in my estimation), I also observed that Ryan also took his strengths and talents and combined it with new principles we were learning in the grad program. He was so thoughtful and thorough.
I think Ryan approached life much in the same way, with thoughtful and thorough analysis (and a bit of humor :) and pure love along the way too. I appreciated his intellect and respected the refinement of his character and learning. For me, he was a giant in character, kindness, intellect and insight yet approachable and inviting. I only saw him use his strengths to the benefit of others and to further his own learning and development. His character, intellect, and kindness are all truly something truly to aspire to.
It’s hurtful to know that Ryan is now gone. I miss knowing that someone who impacted me deeply with relatively few interactions now leaves a gaping hole in the hearts and souls of those who knew and interacted with Ryan at a much deeper level than I did. My heart aches especially for Ryan’s wife and family. We are all blessed and better for knowing and interacting with Ryan. He will be missed.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
The person I knew as Ryan Hendricks was a friend of mine. I can actually recall the first time we met. It was a summer morning in 2007 and he and I were in a room of about 50 other people who were about to begin the Masters of Public Administration Program (MPA) at BYU. Eventually, Ryan and I settled down at a table to enjoy breakfast with the other three members of our “team”, the group of people with whom we would complete much of our work during the program.
As we introduced ourselves for the first time, I learned a few things about Ryan that stick out in my memory. He was from Antioch, California and had just completed a degree from BYU-Idaho in Economics. He had a very warm smile and had an agreeable personality and always had a knack for interesting conversation, even that morning.
Over the next two years I had many good experiences with Ryan, both on an academic and on a personal level. As I contemplate his passing, I’d like to describe a few memories that I have:
-Ryan had very broad cultural tastes. Every group in the MPA program was asked to conduct a group activity and to create a group name within the first few days of meeting each other. Our group decided to wash each others’ cars and we took in a McDonald’s breakfast after we were done. While at McDonald’s, we were discussing our tastes in music, and Ryan mentioned that he was into “J-Pop” music lately. I quizzingly glanced at another group member, wondering what a J-Pop even was. To me, it sounded like some kind of frozen treat you’d get from a shady ice cream truck. Ryan informed me that it was Japanese Pop music, and we all decided that J-Pop was what our group would be known be going forward.
-Ryan was very talented and knowledgeable in the culinary arts. Many mornings, he reported to us the results of some new experiment that he had undertaken in the kitchen the previous evening. He once had the rest of J-Pop over to his house for dinner right before we all left for Christmas break. I remember it being a truly joyous occasion, spent with people that had become my lifelong friends.
-J-Pop loved sampling foods of the world together, and Ryan was an enthusiastic participant. Some of my fondest memories of the MPA Program were when the five of us jammed into a booth together to try some new place that we had heard of.
-Ryan was very intelligent. He had knowledge about a wide range of topics and he taught me plenty, in his amiable manner. We had fun debates over anything and everything.
-After we graduated, some members of J-Pop remained in Provo. One day, those of us still in the area piled into my car and took a trip to the Kennecott Mine, including Ryan. The picture below documents the last time I ever saw Ryan. We all had a good time together and he and I went our separate ways, never to meet again face to face on this earth.
We kept up with each others' accomplishments and news, both good and bad, over the years. He seemed to be content in San Antonio and he also seemed to have found a life that he was comfortable in. I was thrilled to see that he had gotten married recently and hoped that he was living a full and happy life. Clearly, he grappled with some weighty matters during his life, and I think many of us wish we knew, if only to let him know how much we cared about him and to offer our support.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
In addition to being her classmate at BYU, I was fortunate to get to work with Rachel during the last year of her life. My favorite moments include conversations held over lunch, in my office, and on the many walks to Chevron to buy junk food (generally peanut butter snickers for her and bear claws and Diet Coke for me). Usually we talked about something like Star Wars, orbital mechanics, Rick and Morty, the most efficient means of reducing energy consumption, computer games, politics, how to make cheese, the classifications of alcoholic beverages, how many laser pointers it would take to light up a new moon, and podcasts.
We also talked about her struggles with depression, relationships, feeling wanted, suffering, religion, being transgender, and autism. Rachel had some really bad days, but she was usually the smiling face posted here on the right.
One off the many things I found remarkable about her was her ability to make friends wherever she went. She has friends from all sorts of communities, work (across multiple departments), school, various religious and non-religious groups, Comicon, Ponicon, and Havencon, you name it. These are groups that don’t tend to have a lot in common, but she was welcome everywhere because of her generosity, her unfailing kindness, her intelligence, and that incredibly bright smile. Seriously, can you think of anyone that has a smile as infectious as Rachel’s?
I don’t have a great memory for what my wife calls “people things.” But some moments seem fresh no matter how long ago they occurred. One such was when Rachel and I got kicked out of two different city parks in the same night in an effort to do some planet-gazing with my new telescope. We gave up on parks and set up in the parking lot of his apartment complex. He told me about Kerbal Space Program (because he thought my daughter and I would enjoy playing it together) and what it was like living with Aspergers. I saw Jupiter through a telescope for the first time with her that night and it was as “spiritual” an experience as any I have ever had.
Rachel was a woman of many talents, from analysis and cheese making, to computer building and distilling her own gourmet spirits. Last night I went to visit her widow. She was giving Rachel memorabilia to friends and family and asked me if there was anything I wanted to help me remember her by. I was halfway through telling her about some fancy chocolate liqueur Rachel had given me to spice up my occasional White Russian, and she pulls from the fridge the last bottle of homemade eggnog Rachel ever made. She poured us each a glass and we toasted an exceptional life.
I don’t know if there’s a life after this one, let alone the meaning of it, but if there is, I hope she’s enjoying a pan galactic gargle blaster there. I miss my hoopy friend, she was a frood that really knew where her towel was.