Obituary: Friends and classmates remember Maggie Ryan

| Senior Editor

Remembered as caring, selfless and a bit on the silly side by her friends, Maggie Ryan, a 2016 Washington University graduate, was killed last month in a car accident.

Ryan, along with 2013 graduate Chryssi Yip, was driving to Ryan’s parents’ house in Boston following graduation. During stop-and-go traffic, their car was hit by a tractor-trailer and then pushed into another tractor-trailer. Ryan was killed, while Yip suffered serious injuries. Yip is currently recovering.

When Olivia Wolkoff, a 2015 graduate, first met Ryan, it was during an event for sorority Alpha Epsilon Phi’s formal recruitment. Wolkoff saw a girl walking around on crutches—Ryan, who had torn her ACL. In spite of the injury, Ryan was positive and buoyant, embodying an infectious cheerfulness that Wolkoff noticed right away.

“I was not super involved in my sorority, so I didn’t know like every new member super well. I would always recognize Maggie, though, because she was the one on crutches,” Wolkoff joked.

Ryan soon became Wolkoff’s sorority little, and from there a friendship blossomed that grew beyond the bounds of the sorority.

“We had similar senses of humor,” Wolkoff said. “She’s a really easy person to get along with, though. She was always super positive.”

That positivity flowed through Ryan’s work, both in and out of the classroom, as she became involved in campus organization Dance Marathon and service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.

Even before coming to the University., Wolkoff said, Ryan was interested in working with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the charity for which Dance Marathon raises funds.

“I think when she came to Wash. U. and found a way to be involved in an organization that was already meaningful for her, she really embraced that,” Wolkoff said. By her senior year, Ryan was co-director of Dance Marathon, a role which Wolkoff said provided both stress and joy for Ryan.

Ryan’s involvement in APO was less deliberate but not less meaningful. She joined the fraternity her freshman year and later became a member of its executive board.

“I don’t know exactly what happened, but one day, she and I were talking and she was like, ‘Oh, we had Exec elections in APO, I think I’m on Exec now,’” Wolkoff said. “But that’s kind of how she did things, she would just kind of be like, ‘Yeah, you know, I wanted to do this thing so I figured I’d try it, and it worked out.’”

Chryssi Yip, left, and Maggie Ryan pose for a photo in Tisch Commons during a fundraising event. Ryan and Yip met Ryan’s freshman year through the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.Courtesy of Chyrssi Yip

Chryssi Yip, left, and Maggie Ryan pose for a photo in Tisch Commons during a fundraising event. Ryan and Yip met Ryan’s freshman year through the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.

Ryan served as vice president of service for APO and became dedicated to improving the organization and its partners.

“She really got into it and started making a lot of good changes, and she established really great relationships with our chapter and outside organizations,” rising senior and APO member Rachael Spalding said.

Spalding met Ryan through the fraternity and described her as a comforting, easygoing person.

“[Maggie] was probably one of my favorites; she was always really sunny and welcoming,” Spalding said. “APO has a lot of requirements, a lot of community service and fellowship requirements and hours you have to get, and she was one of those people who really made me feel like, ‘It’s no big deal; you’re gonna be fine; if I can do it, you can do it.’”

While Ryan cared deeply about her work, it was her positive personality that always shined through. Wolkoff said that while Ryan was serious about what she did, she balanced it with silliness and kindness. Above all, she cared for her friends.

“She would do little things. Like one time, I ran into her on campus when I was just like crying, I had just—I don’t even remember what had happened, but clearly something terrible, and I was going back to my dorm on the [South 40], and an hour later Maggie showed up at the door with a bag of chocolate,” Wolkoff said. “That’s the kind of stuff that she did, and it wasn’t because she wanted praise and recognition. I think she genuinely really liked making other people happy.”

Yip, who was in the car when the accident occurred, also met Ryan first through APO. However, it wasn’t until the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that Yip and Ryan, both from Boston, truly cemented their friendship through conversation and catharsis. From then on, Yip said, it felt like they had known each other forever. Yip wrote to Student Life to share her memories and remembrances of her friend. Her thoughts, presented in full, are shared below:

“Maggie found a lot of joy in the present. She had the best laugh and a really animated way of talking and telling stories that made you feel like you’ve known her, and anyone the story was about, forever. She was a big fan of getting that extra cookie or serving of mac and cheese because, why not? She loved trying new recipes, exploring the restaurant scene in St. Louis (especially diners and brunch), and starting dance parties. Maggie was also great at capturing moments. Whether it was photo or video, Maggie had a knack for recording in a way that, when replayed or revisited, would make everyone burst out laughing.

I’m sure I will not be the first or only person to comment on how caring and selfless Maggie was, but these are characteristics that shine brightly when I think about her. Maggie would go out of her way to make people feel welcomed and included. She would not only offer to do the boring and unwanted tasks in a student group, but would manage to make it a positive experience for everyone and herself—from APO care package deliveries to flyering in freshman dorms to tabling for Dance Marathon. With both her classes and extracurriculars, she would often tell me that she was just ‘trying to understand how it all fits together,’ realizing that she could make the strongest impact if she understood not just what needed to be done, but what people truly needed at the end of the day.

In all honesty, it’s hard to capture Maggie in words, because so much of who she was was in signature facial expressions and little gestures, specific to each person in her life, that showed how much she cared and understood you. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t miss her, and I’m so thankful for all the memories I have with her.”

A Washington University community celebration of Ryan’s life is being planned for this fall, according to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori White. Ryan’s family has also asked that those who wish to do so donate to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals of Greater St. Louis. A GoFundMe account, created by the Washington University chapter of APO, is also collecting contributions for Children’s Miracle Network.

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