Amy Leah Ryan, a 22-year-old student in the Honors College, entered Dean of the Honors College Stuart Silverman’s office two weeks ago to tell him some exciting news.
“She came in … to tell me that she had been accepted to medical school,” he said. “She was a student who, every couple of months she would pop her head in and, interestingly, ask me how I was doing.”
Ryan, who was accepted into Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Bradenton, drowned while cave diving with her friends April 17 in Citrus County – only a few weeks before her graduation.
Yet, despite the tragedy, she will still graduate this semester, and a scholarship set up by her relatives will help others work toward that same accomplishment.
“She truly graduated,” he said. “We are going to recognize her at graduation. I’m still shook up enough, so I’m not sure (how).”
Ryan completed her final semester at USF with A’s and B’s, Silverman said, and had dreams of someday becoming a physician.
“I knew that when she first came here she was undecided between being a nurse or a physician, and she and I spent a lot of time talking about how to make that decision,” he said. “I helped her to shadow physicians here and to talk to nursing faculty. Within a fairly short time, she decided she would be a physician.”
Ryan never stopped working toward that goal, he said. Now, the scholarship will help her legacy encourage other students to achieve their own.
Silverman said Ryan’s family contacted the Honors College on Tuesday and requested monetary contributions to the scholarship in lieu of flowers. Though he said he thinks the scholarship will be for Honors College students, details have not yet been confirmed.
“The family will decide how much they want to put in initially,” he said. “We don’t yet know how much will be in there. We also don’t know yet if they want to make it an endowment.”
Silverman said the scholarship might benefit Honors students who are athletes. Ryan made the women’s soccer team as a walk-on her first year of college, he said, yet only played for one year.
“She stayed for one year, but Amy worked 20 to 25 hours a week as a waitress,” he said. “I think after the first year she said, ‘This pre-med stuff and work, I can’t do it.'”
Silverman said he was impressed with Ryan’s workload, which included taking pre-medical classes, working a part-time job, volunteering at the Shriners Children’s Hospital and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, shadowing two doctors and maintaining an active social life.
“She did this with over a 3.9 GPA,” he said.
Ryan will be honored in Honors College graduation ceremonies the day before the University graduation ceremonies, which are held May 5-6, Silverman said. There will be three ceremonies May 4 to make them more personal.
If there was one word to describe Ryan, Silverman said it was “sparkle.”
“She was enthusiastic, she looked you in the eye when she talked to you and she is very bright and very hardworking,” he said, “but also very smart.”