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Recent Rice Graduate Soorya Avali, 21, Passes Away

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Photo by Courtesy Greg Kinman | The Rice Thresher

Recent Rice University graduate Soorya Avali (Brown ‘14) died the evening of Monday, July 28. Avali was a materials science and engineering major and avid photographer, sharing his talent via photoshoots for friends as well as through Rice’s yearbook, the Campanile, the Thresher and the Humans of Rice University Facebook page, of which he was a founding member.

By Andrew Ta     7/30/14 12:18pm

Recent Rice University graduate Soorya Avali (Brown ‘14) died the evening of Monday, July 28, according to an email sent to the Rice community by Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson.

Recent Rice University graduate Soorya Avali (Brown ‘14) died the evening of Monday, July 28, according to an email sent to the Rice community by Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson. The cause of death has not been confirmed.

Avali was a materials science and engineering major and avid photographer, sharing his talent via photoshoots for friends as well as through Rice’s yearbook, the Campanile, the Thresher and the Humans of Rice University Facebook page, of which he was a founding member.



He had just started training for a new job with Capital One after arriving home from an extensive trip throughout Europe, according to Amanda Wicker (McMurtry ‘14), who traveled with Avali for part of his trip.

“Originally, Soorya was supposed to do the Europe trip straight through, half with me and then half with friends from Brown College, but his parents wanted to see him halfway between that,” Wicker said. “He traveled with me for three weeks, and then he happily went home for a week to see his parents and little sister. He happily went home for a week from Europe before going straight back over.”

According to Wicker, she and Avali met at a summer camp when they were 14, and, despite living in different states, kept in touch and became close friends before meeting again at Rice, where they ate lunch together once a week for all four years.

“He was the nicest, funniest, best guy you could ever hope to meet,” Wicker said. “He was really so much fun. He never got angry at people, no matter how much they pushed his limits, and I should know, because I definitely did that. He was just someone who knew the worst but brought out the best in other people. He was always smiling and always happy, no matter what. It was impossible to not like him. I don’t know how to say this eloquently, and I don’t know if I ever will, but he is already missed.”

Waseem Ahmad (Brown ‘14), who also traveled with Avali throughout Europe, said he would be dearly missed.

“Soorya was always very cheerful and friendly,” Ahmad said. “I have always enjoyed his company, and recently I got to spend time with him traveling in Europe. Soorya was really good at photography, and I had recently bought my first DSLR. During our time in Europe, he taught me how to use it and take good photos, and we bonded even more with our interest in photography. I will really miss Soorya and my condolences go to his friends and family. May he rest in peace.”

Jones College junior Jeffrey Piccirillo said he and Avali met through a mutual love of photography and often worked together.

“Soorya was always so fun and generous,” Piccirillo said. “So much of how I developed as an artist was from Soorya's selfless advice and guidance. Soorya never once hesitated to share his expensive photo gear, hard-learned knowledge and crazy, adventurous stories. Goodbye, Soorya. You were a truly dedicated and inspirational friend.”

In his email, Hutchinson wrote that counselors from Student Wellbeing and from the Rice Counseling Center were available to offer support for students.

“Many Rice students, faculty and staff knew Soorya well from his leadership, his volunteers activities, his extraordinarily beautiful photography and of course, his ever-present spirit and all-encompassing friendliness,” Hutchinson wrote. “Please reach out to each other to make sure that every member of our community receives the support they need as we grieve and try to understand what cannot be understood.”

A service will be held Thursday, July 31 at 2:30 p.m. at Hughes Crown Hill Funeral Home in Dallas.

Soorya was dear to many of us on the Thresher Editorial Board. His photos often enlivened the paper, and he could always be counted on to deliver striking shots. He was a friend, a photographer, a fellow Owl and an incredible person. We all mourn his death and miss him tremendously. May he rest in peace.

Assistant Thresher News Editor Tina Nazerian and Campanile Editor-in-Chief Anastasia Bolshakov contributed to this article.



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