Memorial service celebrates Hanzich

A Yale Law School memorial service Sunday celebrated the life of Joey Hanzich LAW ’10, who was found dead in his apartment last month.

Friends, family and professors gathered in the Law School auditorium to remember Hanzich, a Harvard graduate and first-year law student who is believed to have died of natural causes Sept. 13. The seven speakers at the memorial service testified to Hanzich’s compassion and humility, as well as his academic achievements, with stories from his life at Yale and before.

“I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet,” said John W. Scott, Hanzich’s college roommate, quoting Jack London. “The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.”

When Scott first read this quotation a few years ago, he said he called Hanzich and told him, “London is writing about you.”

After graduating from Harvard in 2005 as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and a finalist for the Rhodes scholarship, Hanzich, who was born in Newport Beach, Calif., spent a year at Cambridge University’s Pembroke College, where he earned his master’s degree in public health.

The memorial service provided an occasion for those close to Hanzich to comfort one another by sharing their numerous memories from his short but remarkable life, students at the service said.

The service began with bassoon music that Hanzich used to play with his brother, Ricky, and a slide show of photos that elicited both tears and laughter from those in attendance. The service also included opening and closing prayers by University Chaplain Sharon Kugler and speeches by professors from the Law School, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Hanzich’s friends and brother.

Although he knew Hanzich only briefly, Law School Dean Harold Koh said he could confidently describe the former student as “someone who cared for everyone.”

Roger B. Porter, a professor of business and government at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, recalled both Hanzich’s academic achievements and his personal modesty. Porter said Hanzich had exceptional analytical insight and was someone who could “separate myth and reality.”

“Despite having been a star in every stage of his life, he had no trace of entitlement,” Porter said.

At the request of his family, the Law School has established the Joey Hanzich ’10 fund — which will provide financial aid to students who are committed to public service — in an attempt to commemorate Hanzich’s devotion to others.

Speakers at Monday’s service remembered Hanzich as an exemplary scholar. Although the service marked a sorrowful occasion, Hanzich’s enthusiasm for life shone through the speeches, audience members said.

“He loved life more than anyone I have known,” Harvard freshman Ricky Hanzich said of his older brother.

Law School professor Akhil Amar said Hanzich’s cheerful demeanor was evident to him in the few weeks he knew the former vice president of the Harvard College Democrats.

“Joey epitomized the ideal of excellence and humanity,” Amar said. “His smile lit up every room and garden you entered.”

The memorial service, which was organized by the Law School Dean’s Office, was followed by a reception at the Law School dining hall, where the staff served Mexican food, Hanzich’s favorite cuisine. Attendees consoled one another with anecdotes and tight embraces.

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