Notre Dame community remembers Jake Scanlan
Margaret Hynds | Friday, November 13, 2015
“He put a smile on everyone’s face the second he walked into a room,” Caroline Trustey, Jake Scanlan’s girlfriend, said. “Whether it was the goofy outfits that he would wear, or the funny one-liners, or just the way he came in and made you feel so loved and welcome wherever you were. He just made people light up.”
“It seems like every person in our grade, every person in our school, has a memory of Jake. Whether it’s from freshman tutorial, or they lived down the hall from him in the dorm, everyone has these memories,” she said.
Scanlan died suddenly in his sleep Wednesday morning from what appear to be natural causes. A member of the junior class and resident of Siegfried Hall, he graduated from Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. in 2013 and was pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering.
“He was the kind of kid that it didn’t matter if you knew him for two days or two years or if he met you last week. It didn’t matter. He’d approach you like you were an old friend of his,” Jackson Fox said. “ … I made a lot of new friends this semester because I was around him. Being around him facilitates happiness and connection or friendship, almost.”
Junior Ryan Bliss, who knew Scanlan throughout high school as well as at Notre Dame, said Scanlan was able to connect with people quickly.
“It’s hard to describe,” he said. “You always felt next to him, no matter what, whether he met you 30 seconds ago, like you’d known him all his life. He’d always try to make you happy.”
Junior Pat McMahon also went to high school with Scanlan, before coming to Notre Dame, and said he remembers meeting him the first day of their freshman year of high school.
“I first met Jake when he was in my first period class, freshman year at Gonzaga,” he said. “I didn’t know a lot of people going into high school, and he knew some kids that he had gone to middle school with. He was so much himself, and so comfortable in his own skin, that he just wanted to include everyone else.
“He would, without knowing me at all, just throw me into a conversation. He was so goofy and happy and everything, that it made me feel so much more at ease in a group of people that I didn’t really know.”
Fox, a junior, echoed that sentiment.
“[Scanlan] made people around him much more comfortable being themselves,” Fox said. “It’s easy to not feel self-conscious or afraid of doing something that people are going to look down upon, because he didn’t [care]. He would just do his own thing. And that really translated to everyone he was around”
“Doing his own thing” worked its way into Scanlan’s sense of humor. Junior Brandon Burdine said one memory stood out in particular.
“When I think of Jake, I remember him at football games. It would be 20 degrees out, and he’d be out there in his jorts, shirtless, yelling at people.” Burdine said.
Many of his friends said Scanlan constantly used his humor to the benefit of those around him.
“He always found the good in something,” junior Matt Habrowski said. “He had the ability to turn a not-so-good situation into something that could be funny or brighten someone else’s day.
“It was always living outside of himself, trying to make other people smile or laugh. And I think that’s why other people gravitate towards him, and why he affected so many people. … His impact on others was second to none,” he said. “You don’t come across too many people like that.”
Fox said that despite Scanlan’s goofy sense of humor, he was deeply committed to helping his friends.
“He was a goofy guy, but at the same time he was very loyal,” Fox said. “If you were a friend of his, he’d help you out. If it was serious, he could be serious. If you just wanted to joke around and be funny, that’s who he could be. … It didn’t really matter what it was; he could be that.
“ … It’s hard to have a bad day when you’re around Jake,” Fox said. “If you needed him to be something, he’d just do it. There was never any question. It didn’t matter what it was, if you needed his help, and he could help you in any way, then he would do it. It never needed to be asked, ever.”
Burdine said Scanlan’s desire to make others laugh reflected his selflessness and loyalty to his friends.
“He got so much joy out of life, and he always wanted to make someone else’s day a little bit better in any way he could,” Burdine said. “I think that’s a pretty rare quality to have, but he never seemed focused on himself or his own happiness.
“ … He was a very genuine person, I think that’s what I admired most about him,” Burdine said. “He didn’t really care what other people thought about him, but everyone always liked him.”