When David Ryerson, was killed in a plane crash in January 1994, his parents, Nan and Peter Ryerson, were intent on doing something to preserve his memory.
The Akron couple will visit the University of Toledo today to award the 20th scholarship in memory of David, who was a first-year medical student there when he and four others were killed in the crash of a United Express flight in Columbus. He was 25 years old.
A first-year student at the medical school will receive a $12,000 one-year David Hamilton Ryerson Memorial Scholarship.
Ryerson was a Firestone High School graduate who later received his undergraduate degree at the University of Rochester and a master’s in biomedical engineering from Case Western Reserve University before being admitted to the Medical College of Ohio in the fall of 1993. The school is now called the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences.
Peter Ryerson said the first scholarship was awarded in 1994 to a student who is now a doctor in Las Vegas. He and his wife, Nan Ryerson, who are retired national medical consultants, recently spoke about their son and the scholarship.
Q: How did you fund the scholarship?
A: (Peter) The majority of the funding came from Nan and I. There were some contributions by others, and we appreciate that, but that has been small. The scholarship is our way of keeping David’s memory alive.
Q: Why is it important to remember a loved one in this way?
A: (Peter) Losing a child is one of the most painful ordeals that a parent can have to deal with. Many people who have not been through it believe that after some time it is over. It is never over. Having the scholarship keeps David’s memory alive.
(Nan) This is something you never get over. You learn to cope with it, but what you need to do is find a way to pay tribute to your loved one.
Q: How would you say setting up the scholarship and getting involved in giving out the money to young students has helped you in dealing with the loss of your son?
A: (Peter) There is an open wound that just does not heal. This is the one way that we have of dealing with the loss and to help others that need help. The students, the school, friends and others have helped us, and this is a way of paying back.
(Nan) Peter and I decided that the best way to honor David and pay tribute to him would be to fund a scholarship in David’s name.
Q: Who makes decisions on who gets scholarships?
A: (Peter) The applications are reviewed by our six-member scholarship committee to determine who best deserves the award. We have established criteria for incoming students. The students apply for the scholarship by writing an essay and then having references. They often do their research to understand what David was like and who has received the scholarships. The applications are reviewed by the board, and they determine who best deserves it.
Q: What advice do you have for others who are grieving the loss of a loved one?
A: (Peter) Do something in the deceased one’s memory!
(Nan) We have felt that this is what David would have wanted us to do ... David didn’t have a chance to fulfill his own dream of becoming a doctor, but we could help someone else do that. ... I would say to anyone who is grieving over the loss of a loved one: Find a way to commemorate their life, making something good happen out of a tragedy. ... Do something to change the world!
Q: Tell me about David. What was his dream and what did he plan to do after medical school?
A: (Peter) When David was young, I taught him to plan his life. I never saw his plan while he was alive, but after his death I found his plan in his computer. He had a plan and was on track to accomplish it. It was written and very comprehensive. ... We had a next-door neighbor by the name of Steve Lowe, MD. Steve was an orthopedic surgeon. On his birthday [David] had gone over to Steve’s house and asked Steve about how the knee works. Steve took a chicken leg that was to be for dinner and opened it to show David how the knee works and what makes the knee move. Steve’s wife came in and saw what was happening and told Steve that they would now have lamb on the menu and he had to go and get some.
David wanted to be a doctor and nothing could deter him from that goal. He got his Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry from the University of Rochester. He got his master’s at Case in biomedical engineering. Then he interviewed at three medical schools. After his third interview, this being the Medical College of Ohio, he came home and said that he had made a decision and that was Medical College of Ohio. ... There is no question in my mind that if the accident had not occurred that David would be a pediatric orthopedic surgeon now.
(Nan) David wanted to be a physician since he was 9 years old. That is all he ever wanted. ... On his ninth birthday, he asked for a copy of Gray’s Anatomy. We gave it to him and he read it cover to cover.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or email@example.com.