Ryan Tran was the one who got Allen Lin his first job at a Vietnamese restaurant, and drove him from their home in Reading, Pennsylvania to tour Temple University.
“You were my homie, Ryan,” said Lin, a junior actuarial science major who went to Wilson High School in West Lawn, Pennsylvania with Tran, during a vigil at the Bell Tower on Monday evening.
Tran, who was 21, died in the early hours of Saturday morning, according to a university email sent out that day. He was a member of Temple’s chapter of Delta Chi Psi Fraternity, Inc., the university’s Asian-American fraternity, since Spring 2017. A GoFundMe page for a memorial fund in honor of Tran raised more than $23,000 by Wednesday morning.
Delta Chi Psi organized Monday’s vigil, which gathered about 200 people, including students from the fraternity and Temple’s chapter of Alpha Sigma Rho, along with friends, students and Tran’s family.
Tran, a sophomore speech pathology major, is remembered by family and his friends as selfless, cheery and kind.
“I know that Ryan wouldn’t want me to continuously dwell on a situation for too long,” said Ly Tran, Ryan Tran’s sister, during the vigil. “I want to turn my tears into smiles and laughter again when I hear his name or think of him.”
Nghia Nguyen, Ryan Tran’s mother, said through Ly Tran translating that she loves and cares for everyone who attended the vigil. His father, Truyen Tran, said seeing his son’s friends’ and fraternity brothers’ support makes him happy.
“I feel warm and loved inside to see how many people came out to celebrate Ryan,” Nguyen said.
During some moments at the vigil, the Bell Tower was silent and filled with sounds of sniffling and friends and family comforting each other. Those who knew Ryan Tran were invited to share memories of him; one recited a poem she wrote after his death, while another asked those in the crowd to tell the people standing next to them they are loved and cared for.
Kevin Stephan, a freshman sports management major in Delta Chi Psi, who Ryan Tran mentored in the fraternity this semester, said Ryan Tran embraced his Vietnamese culture, which Stephan had been missing before he came to Temple. Because Stephan was adopted, he didn’t grow up with that appreciation, he said.
“I’ll never be half the man he was,” Stephan said. “Ryan had all the qualities of a person I aspire to be.”
Richard Ng, a 2017 psychology alumnus and member of Delta Chi Psi, said he knew from the first day he met Ryan Tran he wanted to be his mentor.
“He showed how great life could be,” Ng said. “He would always care about others’ problems first.”
Professors who taught Tran in the Communication Sciences and Disorders department praised his intellect and insight. Tran was a “thoughtful, considerate and responsible person,” wrote Francine Kohen, a CSD professor who taught Tran last semester, in an email to The Temple News.
“Early on, I realized he was extremely smart,” said Robin Aronow, a sociolinguistics instructor who taught Tran for the last three semesters.
“He seemed to be a powerhouse of knowledge,” she added.
Tran was quiet, Aronow said, but she developed a strong relationship with him by encouraging him to speak in class. He was Vietnamese, and would share his personal views on bilingualism and biculturalism in Aronow’s Monday night class, she said.
“Everything he said was deliberate and intentional,” she said. “He had an intellectual richness that is not real common in students his age.”
After she learned Tran had passed, Kohn re-read an essay Tran wrote for her class, where he reviewed the book “Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” the memoir of former French Elle magazine Editor-in-Chief Jean-Dominique Bauby, and expressed appreciation for how blessed he was in life, she wrote.
“This novel revived my appreciation and acknowledgment of the fortunate life that I live,” Tran wrote in the paper in Fall 2018.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Alpha Sigma Rho as Delta Chi Psi Fraternity, Inc.’s sister sorority.