Recent alumnus remembered as compassionate, loyal and ‘whip smart’

Friends and neighbors started a memorial for Keaton Marek at the 2400 M Apartments. The recent alumnus was found dead on the sidewalk at 24th and M streets last Wednesday. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

Keaton Marek, who graduated last month, could often be found debating seemingly “silly” topics, like the loyalty of characters in “The Lord of the Rings.”

Still, Marek always remained kind, said long-time friend and alumnus Oskar Sharman. Marek, 22, was found dead last Wednesday on a sidewalk at 24th and M streets.

“He got along with everybody,” Sharman said. “He attracted all the right people.”

Sharman said Marek was always there to complement Sharman’s slightly introverted personality. Roommates their freshman and sophomore years, the pair “did everything together,” he said.

“Keaton was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known,” Sharman, who is a former Hatchet reporter, said. “I was calling him my best friend two weeks into being at college. It’s fairly rare for a friendship to last that long in college. But he was one of the most likeable people I’ve ever met.”

Marek “came off” the roof of the 2400 M Apartments last week, his mother said. His official cause of death has not yet been released because a report by the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is not yet complete. Metropolitan Police Department officers had responded to a radio call for a “man down,” where Marek was found unconscious and not breathing on a sidewalk. He had suffered severe head trauma, according to police records.

His mother, Cynthia Marek, said about 30 students from GW were coming to his memorial services in New York this week.

She said her son loved to debate, and took classes on topics he cared about instead of courses to boost his GPA. He loved watching sports and would meet up with his younger sister, Kelly, who is a senior at GW, for the occasional brunch or lunch.

“He was one of those people, and I know there are probably a lot of people at GW like this, who wanted to improve the world,” she said.

Keaton Marek was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity since his freshman year and was a leader among the organization’s members, said Charlie Temkin, the chapter’s president. Since Marek joined the fraternity, he had an “immeasurable impact” on the members, Temkin said in an email.

“Keaton was widely regarded as one of the funniest members of our chapter and was always there to put a smile on anyone’s face no matter where or when,” Temkin said. “Despite his passing, Keaton will live on in through the many fond memories everyone has with him.”

Marek interned with his representative in Congress, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., in both his Buffalo and D.C. offices from June 2013 to May 2014.

“He was a hardworking and bright addition to our team who was well liked by all,” Higgins’ office said in a statement. “Our hearts break for the Marek family as well as his friends at home and in Washington.”

Marek was also a campus security aide and a member of the GW College Democrats. He graduated from Kenmore West High School in Tonawanda, N.Y. and was a recipient of a Board of Trustees scholarship at GW, which is given to undergraduates to help with tuition expenses.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and minored in philosophy, a subject his professors said was his passion.

In one of her classes this past spring, assistant philosophy professor and Director of Graduate Studies Laura Papish said Marek stood out because of his “laser-like focus on what really mattered in a philosophical debate.”

“One of the first things I can say is that I thought Keaton was awesome — just a cool person with great ideas and one of the people I really hoped to keep in touch with after graduation,” Papish said in an email.

She said he also came up with his own philosophical scenarios, to which they referred as “Keaton cases,” and classmates would use them to relate to other topics they were studying.

“He was whip smart, fiercely skeptical and very kind,” Papish said.

Jason Fisette, an adjunct professor, taught Keaton Marek in a class on the history of modern philosophy two years ago. He said Keaton Marek dove into difficult topics with a sense of optimism, and was cheerful and kind during class discussions.

“Keaton showed his qualities with his careful and patient questioning of initially bewildering theories, and my ruling memory of him is as happily engaged in a congenial exchange of ideas with his peers,” Fisette said in an email. “The loss of this friend of philosophy is a great one.”

This week, a neighbor started a memorial on a wall outside of the 2400 M Apartments. Friends and strangers have pencilled notes on pieces of paper and taped them to a window. Sunflowers, lilies and candles line a windowsill. A memorial service will be held in the lobby on Thursday night.

“Keaton, we will celebrate your life and not your death, for you will always be alive in our hearts, forever,” one message read.

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