He was sarcastic, laughed a lot and sometimes made off-color jokes, but there was one thing everyone could agree on: Stephen Alex Rane was perfectly genuine and always sincere.
It didn’t matter if Rane was talking with his best friends or chatting with classmates — he made it known that he cared.
Rane, 22, died early Feb. 12 after his roommate, graduate student Dayvon Maurice Green, killed him and injured undergraduate student Neal Oa before shooting and killing himself, police said. Green had suffered from a mental illness for at least a year, according to Prince George’s County Police.
Last night, a group of about 50 people — including family members and friends from the university and Rane’s high school — gathered near the sundial on McKeldin Mall to share memories of Rane. They laughed as they recalled the Ted Leo and the Pharmacists sweatshirt he was practically sewn into and smiled as students mentioned how he could make anyone feel better.
“I’ve been watching messages on his Facebook wall pop up — it’s all helped,” his sister, Alison Rane, said to the group last night. “But for us, there’s going to be more difficult times ahead. I just hope that if you think of him sometime in the future, you tell us.”
Born on June 18, 1990, in Lafayette, Ind., Rane attended West Lafayette Junior/Senior High School before transferring to Centennial High School in Ellicott City his junior year. Though he was a transfer student, he befriended students almost instantly and was asked to give a speech at his graduation.
At this university, he joined the Media, Self and Society College Park Scholars program and quickly made it clear to his professors he was not a typical freshman. The senior English and linguistics major didn’t balk from front row seats in lecture halls or from drawing attention to himself if he had something to contribute, which was often, said Kalyani Chadha, Media, Self and Society program director.
“He wasn’t afraid to raise his hand,” said Chadha. “He was an extroverted kind of kid. But he never talked for the sake of talking — he said something because it was thoughtful, intelligent, to the point.”
Intelligent and witty, Rane was often at the center of class discussions, said Joe Simcox, a senior German and linguistics major.
“It was always so much fun talking to him, going to class with him,” Simcox said. “The best thing about him: He was such a unique person and so funny.”
Rane, known by many for his catchphrase, “Stephen is great,” would often come up with creative ways to brighten up people’s days — whether it was dancing around a dorm room late at night or the time he snuck into another residence hall and anonymously placed candy on each person’s door on Valentine’s Day, signing them as the fourth-floor admirer.
“He could always cheer you up, no matter how late it was,” said Megan Matthews, a senior microbiology major. “He took life the right way. He was there for everybody.”
Rane had a way with words and wanted to learn as many languages as he could, said Jeanette Santori, Rane’s first girlfriend. He studied abroad in Ireland last year, Chadha said, adding he talked about wanting to return there.
As a student who frequently made the dean’s list, he participated in numerous creative writing workshops, English chairman William Cohen wrote in an email to the English department. Outside of class, Rane interned at the university’s writing center as a sophomore and worked at the GameStop in College Park.
“Working with him was a blast, just because it didn’t feel like work,” said Simcox, an employee at the Route 1 video game shop. “We’d just hang out, and we’d have deep conversations. I’m definitely going to miss that.”
Rane is survived by his mother, Karen Rane, and stepfather, Gerald Brust, both university employees; his father, Stanley Rane, and stepmother, Teresa Pena; sister Alison Rane and her husband, Maxime Paquin, and sister Noelia Rane.
The university held a vigil for him Feb. 12 in the Memorial Chapel. He was buried in Philadelphia Memorial Park in Frazer, Pa., on Feb. 16, following a memorial service at Mauger/Givnish Funeral Home in Malvern, Pa.