Colleen Hammond | editor-in-chief
Sept. 30, 2021
For students like Paige Runco and Jack Harper, it is almost impossible to imagine a world without the boyish smile and floppy brown hair of Thomas Jahanian. But in the blink of an eye, those warm and kind features they had grown to love suddenly vanished — this time forever.
A wave of grief washed over the pair this week as reports of the tragic loss of Jahanian reached their friend group.
On Saturday afternoon, Pittsburgh River Rescue responded to a call from a bystander in the area surrounding the 10th Street Bridge for a man who had been seen going underwater just before 1:45 p.m. He died at UPMC Mercy Hospital after being retrieved from the water, according to the Pittsburgh Office of Public Safety.
The man was later identified as Jahanian, 28, a part-time Duquesne student and the son of Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian.
“The Jahanian family expresses immense gratitude toward the bystander who saw him in need of assistance while swimming and immediately called 911, in addition to the rescue teams on the scene and the medical professionals at the hospital,” said Shilpa Bakre, a Carnegie Mellon’s spokes person in a news statement.
Bakre said the family has asked for privacy as they mourn the sudden and heartbreaking loss of their son.
Despite the heartache, Jahanian’s closest friends remain adamant about sharing the unerasable impact he had on their lives.
“Thomas was the kindest, most intelligent, most selfless person I have ever met, and he will be missed dearly,” said student Emily Gample. “He never had a bad word to say about anyone, and was always the first person to help others.”
This desire to help is what bonded Jahanian and Gample in the first place. Noticing that Gample was struggling in a class they had together, Jahanian reached out to assist in understanding the material. Since then, the two had been close friends, frequently spending time together as they continued on their academic journeys.
Gample spoke fondly of Jahanian, noting his unwavering generosity of spirit and constant consideration for others. Last week, as Gample prepared to give a large presentation for one of her classes, Jahanian went out of his way to get her a cup of coffee and split a sandwich with her, having anticipated that she had been too busy and anxious to eat.
“Every single day he put time and effort into trying to make my life easier, no matter what he was dealing with,” Gample said.
And Gample was not alone in this observation. Duquesne alumni and close friend of Jahanian, Jacob Joyce, remembers him as a bright light in his life.
“Talking with Thomas was like discovering that you had a deep spiritual connection with someone whom you never met but always knew,” Joyce said.
Over the past year, Joyce and Jahanian’s friendship blossomed so much so, that Joyce has been asked to speak at Jahanian’s private memorial on Saturday.
“Thomas is the human encapsulation of love, and I am so lucky to have been able to call him a friend and a brother,” said Harper, one of Jahanian’s roommates.
“He took us on the most magical journey being his friend and blessed the world with his wonder, wisdom and of course his contagious sense of humor that filled everyone’s soul just being in the same room with him,” friend and roommate Runco said.
Jahanian’s wide variety of skills and talents seeped through into everything he did, his friends said.
Harper remembers him as a wildly talented musician, saying “his songs will play in my soul for the rest of my life.”
“Whether it was musical, philosophical, or something just completely odd that had no rhyme or reason, he loved and lived to always be there to take us on that journey of what could be and why,” Runco said. “Together we continue to spread his ever-evolving love, humor and wonder — something words cannot describe.”
There will be a memorial mass offered for Jahanian on Sunday, Oct. 3 at 9 p.m. in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. The Rev. John Sawicki will be presiding, and there will be a reception immediately after in the Bayer Rotunda, according to an email sent to her students by Therese Bonin.
“He will live on through his legacy of the impact he’s had on everyone he’s met,” Gamble said.
Despite the sorrow Jahanian’s death has brought to his friends and family, Harper, Runco, Gamble and Joyce are confident that Jahanian’s loving spirit will remain with them well into the future.
“He really touched everything and everyone with so much love,” Runco said.