More than 80 people crowded into the renovated Thurston Hall television lounge Friday afternoon to witness the emotional dedication of the room to the memory of Jonathan Michael Rizzo.
Rizzo, a GW freshman in 2000-01 and member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, was killed near his Massachusetts home in July 2001.
The event was organized by Rizzo’s friends, juniors Eric Daleo, Kate Powers, Josh Schimmerling and Amanda Eidshaug. University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg gave an emotional speech and a plaque was unveiled.
“I’m glad so many people came,” said junior Anuj Patel, Rizzo’s roommate freshman year, adding, “His death was the first time I lost anyone close.”
Rizzo was an active member of the fraternity and had planned to serve as fall 2001 rush chair. More than 30 members of the fraternity attended the event.
The ceremony lasted almost an hour, highlighted by Trachtenberg, who related Rizzo’s murder to the death of one of his fraternity brothers while he was in college.
“The melancholy is that we are here today,” he said, visibly shaking. “Someone was snatched due to a terrible, cruel act.”
Trachtenberg spoke about “the fragility of life” students’ common misconception that “nothing can harm them”
Students and friends raised $19,000, more than the $15,000 the University requested to dedicate the lounge.
Trachtenberg said raising funds made the effort to dedicate the room more meaningful.
“Unless there was muscle to raising the resources, it would be a transitory … celebration,” Trachtenberg said. “We encouraged them to join together as a community to reach this occasion.”
University officials also said naming the lounge in honor of Rizzo cost less than the set requirement for dedication, but the normal amount was unavailable.
“There are set guidelines for dedicating University space,” said Norma Bustos of the Office of Advancement. “We charged them less than the usual dedication price because they are students.”
Some Kappa Sigma members said they were tentative about involvement with the memorial effort.
“Some of us had qualms with the idea of raising money for the University,” said junior Michael Hartman, a member of Kappa Sigma. “We don’t think that’s what (Rizzo) would have wanted.”
Hartman said he believed Rizzo would have wanted the money to go to charity.
More than a dozen freshman Kappa Sigma pledges paid their respects to Rizzo.
“We know about his legacy,” freshman pledge Matt Streisfeld said. “(Fraternity members) talk about him a lot.”
Many other attendees said they remembered Rizzo’s personality and giving nature.
“I’m glad there’s something that can show respect to a person with one of the purest hearts I’ve ever known,” junior Andrew Schwartz said