The excitement of the hustle and bustle of moving back to campus had a different feeling this year for the Class of 2009, and many others. The Quinnipiac community tragically lost two of its shining faces over the summer; Michael McDowell-Smith and Ryan Horodnicki.
Michael McDowell-Smith was more commonly known to his friends and fellow students as “Busey”. Due to his resemblance to the Hollywood actor, his best friend and freshman roommate Luke Garriton gave him the nickname that will forever be remembered.
McDowell-Smith was a junior psycho-biology major attending Quinnipiac from East Hampton, Conn. A graduate of Xavier High School, he passed away June 26 leaving behind adoring family including his parents Elizabeth and Brett, and siblings Ryan and Kaylan.
As a group of these friends sat outside on a sunny day reminiscing, Garriton recalled the first time he met Smith. Consistent with Mc-Dowell-Smith’s unique actions and outlooks, Garriton said, “Busey was lying in his bed in 100 degree weather, with his comforter, jeans and work boots on just hanging over the side. He didn’t believe in shorts, so he never wore them. Eventually his dad got him this huge oscillating fan to sleep with, and sometimes he’d even sleep with it on his face. ”
Smiles grew on their faces as they all remembered such a special person. He was true to himself as his kindness always shone through. “Everyone loved Busey,” roommate Nick Alvanos, junior, said.
Mc-Dowell-Smith’s friends remember him for his trademark hats, including the yellow hard hat and the “uncle buck hat” as Garriton called it.
More than his unique headwear and trademark “Chrome” cologne, McDowell-Smith is also remembered for his love of family, and friends.
“Busey loved doing stuff for other people, and being friends with everyone he could,” Matt Dermody, junior, said.
“Busey was always there when I needed to talk to someone and he gave great advice. I wish I could have done the same for him,” said Sharon Schwartz, senior.
In addition, roommate Kevin Aires, junior, said, “No matter how well you knew him, it was evident he was a friendly person who loved being around people.”
Garriton summed up his friend’s personality. “He would never walk down Dorm Road without seeing at least a few people he knew. He was that type of kid,” he said.
Aires added, “He was genuine and kind, and just wanted to be well-liked. I hope more than anything that Busey left us knowing how well-liked he really was.”
McDowell-Smith’s love for people was definitely returned in the days following his passing. Quinnipiac students did not receive a notification email until the day of his funeral and still, “The place was packed”, Dermody said, “and about half the people there were from Quinnipiac.”
Mc-Dowell Smith’s friends are in the early stages of setting up a scholarship fund in his honor.
Ryan Horodnicki also had a nickname, “Hot Rod.” Aside from Quinnipiac, Horodnicki also called Deer Park Long Island his home. Ryan was a senior criminal justice major, who aspired to be a lawyer. He passed away on July 23 from injuries suffered in an accident.
Horodnicki excelled in his pursuit of education so much that he was on track to graduate after completion of this semester; three semesters ahead of the rest of his class.
Horodnicki had an unbelievable love for life,” said Jessica Doyle, junior. “At his funeral Ryan’s dad said how he never let anything bring him down, and how he lived every day to its fullest, and he really did. Ryan never let the little things bring him down.”
Another close friend, junior Greg DeBonis said, “He was never in a genuinely bad mood, just always positive and loving life.”
Family always came first to Horodnicki. Junior Dan Ralabate said, “One thing we all admired about Ryan was his love for his family. He always made time to talk to his parents nearly every day.”
His friends recalled just how loving and special Horodnicki’s family was during their visits to Quinnipiac. Junior Monica Piscitelli giggled as she recalled, “I remember walking up Dorm Road and always seeing the mini-van. And there were Ryan’s parents, unloading the laundry and all this food.”
As much as Horodnicki loved his family, his Quinnipiac family also felt the love, according to roommate Bryan DeFilippis. “Ryan was the glue to our family here at Quinnipiac”, DeFilippis said.
“Ryan could see someone in the gym and just pick up a game of basketball with them”, said junior and roommate Hunter Mandel.
DeFilippis recalled how everyone who knew Horodnicki considered him one of their closest friends. “Almost everyone who met Ryan walked away with a great impression. There were at least 300 cars at his funeral, between everyone from home and school,” DeFilippis said.
“Even the guy from 7-11 was at Ryan’s wake,” Doyle said. “Everyone loved Ryan.”
Even after his passing Horodnicki found a way to touch lives: as three of his organs were donated to people in need. By the time of his wake, Ryan Horodnicki’s heart had already saved the life of a fellow Long Islander.
Horodnicki’s friends and family have set up a Scholarship Fund in his memory.
The family has asked that donations be sent to the Ryan T. Horodnicki Memorial Scholarship, P.O. Box 2954, North Babylon, N.Y., 11703.