Miami mourns a student ‘going places’
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 02:10
Sean VanDyne was not one for doing things the conventional way. His love for fun and his tireless ambition often took him off the beaten path and made those around him stop and take notice. As Sean’s childhood friend Jon Lee put it, “He knew what he wanted to do and how he was going to do it.”
In an elementary school worksheet where Sean wrote of his love for dogs and math, he also declared that he would be a lawyer someday. Though his ambitions shifted over the years, his drive did not, Lee said.
VanDyne died last Monday following a car crash that put him in critical condition. He had just started his first year at Miami University as a Farmer School of Business (FSB) Scholar, with a long list of merit scholarships covering the bulk of his tuition and fees. He was studying accountancy with ambitions of becoming an FBI agent someday, according to his parents. But Lee, also a Miami first-year, said Sean’s brief time in the “Renaissance in Italy” art class had led him to wonder if he should pursue a degree in the arts.
“He told me one day, ‘I really love this [14th] century Western art class. I think I want to change my major,’” Lee said.
The professor for the course, Andrew Casper, said it was rather unusual for a first-year student to be taking this 300-level course, but that Sean had stood out during class discussions.
“I was impressed by his ability to participate in a way that was substantial and meaningful to the class,” Casper said. “That was unusual for a first-year student.”
As a part of FSB’s China Business Program, Sean was also taking Mandarin. One of his favorite places to practice was his job at Skyline Chili in Hamilton, where he worked with Lee.
“He’d come in here and talk in Chinese to the customers, yelling ‘zain jin!’ as they were leaving,” Lee said, laughing at the memory. “He always wanted other people to have a good time.”
Lee said he relentlessly poked fun at his coworkers and kept the work atmosphere light.
“You knew it was going to be a good day when you walked in and saw Sean,” another coworker, Hope McClain said.
In the two months she worked with Sean, Hope said she had come to recognize him by his bright red Toms shoes.
“He had red Toms; it was kinda his thing here,” McClain said. “It was kinda unusual for a guy to wear Toms, but Sean did, and he would always tell us to get them.”
Lee agreed with the sentiment.
“He always did things his own way,” Lee said.
And Sean’s way was helping people no matter what, according to his wife Rachel, also a Miami first-year.
“He just really loved to help people,” Rachel said. “You could call him literally at 3 a.m. or 5 a.m. and he’d be there.”
Rachel and Sean were married this August after dating since they were 13. Their friend and fellow Miami student Brandi Sauerwein learned before long that where one was, the other was sure to be close-by.
“Their relationship was different and special,” Sauerwein said. “They loved each other and that was just apparent.”
Rachel is studying management and leadership at FSB. They attended Hamilton High School together along with Sean’s best friend, Ben Flick, a University of Cincinnati first-year who died in the same car crash that killed Sean.
Around Hamilton High, Sean and Ben were the quintessential dynamic duo, feeding off each other’s humor and causing just enough mischief to be well-loved.
“Ben was always the funny kid in the class and Sean was right there next to him being hilarious,” Sauerwein said.
Sean joined Ben in playing on the football team their senior year where he impressed former head coach Bob Jacoby with his work ethic.
“I spent a lot of time with Sean in the weight room and watched him in the school community,” Jacoby said. “He was a highly respected kid, a very hard worker.”
Sean stood out to his teachers for his hard work, not only on the field, but in the classroom as well. His mother has carefully preserved dozens of Honor Roll certificates and “Outstanding Reader” awards in clear plastic sheet protectors, and placed them in plump scrapbooks dating back to elementary school. The last few pages include a letter from the College Board granting him the title of AP Scholar for getting high scores on his many AP exams, and a President’s Award for outstanding academic achievement.
“He was going places,” Lee said. “He went through a lot of adversity, but he was going places.”
In true Sean style, he was buried Monday in a suit, his fedora and his aviator glasses.
“That’s the way Sean would have wanted it,” Lee said, smiling. “He always did things his own way and wouldn’t have wanted it traditionally done.”