Alumni return to commemorate friend, bench named in his honor



Joe Cramer

While friends and couples gathered to celebrate Valentine’s Day this past weekend, eight alumni met on campus for a more bittersweet purpose. For ’03 alumni Joe Ryan, Kevin Bennett, Andrew Smith, Michael Keaveney, Michael Ottoboni, Meghan Bennett and Meghann Keaveney, this is the second year that they have all gathered on a February weekend to commemorate their friend and classmate, Christopher Gneiding.

Gneiding, at 27 years old, was killed in a car accident on Aug. 16, 2008 in Ellison, N.Y. 

Born in Allentown, Pa. and raised in Orefield, a town just a few miles outside of the city, Gneiding called Pennsylvania his home through his childhood years and well into his 20s, attending Villanova as an undergraduate and later Penn State Dickinson Law School.

At the time of his death, Gneiding was working as an attorney for Pricewaterhouse Coopers Accounting firm, a major professional services firm, in San Francisco.

The group, including Gneiding, met in 1999 when they were freshmen living in Stanford Hall. 

Despite careers and other post-college endeavors separating the group geographically in the years following their graduation, they remained close until Gneiding’s death. 

Now, they plan on reuniting each winter for, as Joe Ryan puts it, “hoops and memories.” 

“Chris was the best,” Ryan said. “He was a great guy to do anything with.” 

Starting last year, the eight friends, who are now scattered across the country in Pennsylvania, California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina, decided to have these reunions once a year at Villanova in his memory. 

Last year, the first winter following Gneiding’s death, the group attended the basketball game against Louisville. Keeping with tradition, they went to the Providence game at the Wachovia Center this past weekend. 

“It’s only been our second year,” Ryan said. “We always make T-shirts and go to a hoops game, then spend Saturday night at ‘Nova.” 

This year, they had a new landmark on campus to help them commemorate their friend, as they sought out a bench dedicated to his memory on Saturday morning, located in front of Kennedy Hall. 

For Ryan and the rest of the group, gathering each year in his honor is a poignant way to pay tribute to an irreplaceable friend. 

“He was a lot of fun,” Ryan said. “His energy and sense of humor made him one of kind.”