Community remembers Mohammed Ramzan as a ‘lover of life’ at memorial


Allie Goulding/Daily Senior Staffer

Students light candles outside of Lutkin Hall in memory of first-year student Mohammed Ramzan. Ramzan passed away Monday during crew practice.

Mariana Alfaro, Print Managing Editor

Family and friends of first-year student Mohammed Ramzan remembered him as a curious, gentle and hardworking student who lived to make others’ lives better.

Ramzan passed away Monday after falling off a nine-person shell during crew practice on the North Shore Channel in Lincolnwood. Members of Ramzan’s various Northwestern communities spoke during a memorial service held at Lutkin Hall on Wednesday.

Participants of the Freshman Urban Program, NU Quest Scholars, members of the Muslim-cultural Students Association, a member of NU men’s crew team and leaders of both Rainbow Alliance and Queer Trans and Intersex People of Color spoke during the service.

They all shared memories of Ramzan’s time at NU, emphasizing his energetic outlook on life, his love for his religion and his dream to one day become an AIDS researcher and doctor. More than 400 people attended the memorial, which ended with a candlelight vigil outside of Lutkin Hall.

Luke Flores, director of the BioEXCEL program — a summer program for incoming science students — met Ramzan during the program last year. Flores said Ramzan promised him he was going to make him proud.

“The gratitude that he had and the excitement that he had to come here, to Northwestern … was something he constantly expressed to me,” Flores said. “I am very proud that Mohammed was my student.”

Weinberg freshman Samantha Flood said she and Ramzan spent a lot of time together — hanging out in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood, helping each other with work or simply grabbing a meal. Ramzan worked hard academically and at the job he took in a Rogers Park restaurant, she said. Regardless of his economic circumstances, Flood said, Ramzan was “internally motivated to succeed.”

“(Mohammed) was the love of my life,” she said. “We could be doing anything and it would turn into a happy memory.”

Flood said Ramzan was aware his family was in a difficult financial situation but didn’t let that stop him from working hard and helping others. Ramzan did not take anything for granted, she said.

Northwestern’s associate chaplain and director of interfaith engagement Tahera Ahmad said when she first met Ramzan, she asked him if he knew what his name meant. Ramzan said yes, that he was named after the chief prophet of Islam. This conversation then led to discussions over root words and languages, topics that fascinated Ramzan, Ahmad said.

Ahmad said they used to talk about Urdu, a language spoken in Pakistan, his parents’ country of origin. Ahmad said they once had a conversation over a specific word, “asliat” — us-lee-uth — which is a word she said “begs one to question, ‘Who are you? Where are you going? What is the purpose and meaning of your life?’”

“We say in traditional culture that the asliat of a person is ‘What are they really made of?’” she said. “(Ramzan) questioned that while he was at Northwestern. He began a journey of spirituality with that question and so many of you are here today because we knew him at different intersections of that question that he was asking.”

Ahmad encouraged attendees to question where they are going and what are they really made of, to honor Ramzan. Mohammed, she said, means “the one who brings mercy,” and that’s what Ramzan brought to NU.

“He was a son, a grandson, a nephew, a student, a lover of life (and) passionate,” Ahmad said. “He was of mercy, to all of us. We ask the divine, the almighty, to have mercy on him.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @marianaa_alfaro