In Memory of a Former Student

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In 1989, after lettering in cross country and track & field and ranking thirteenth in her class of more than 400, Grace Rualo Asuncion graduated from Agoura High School and joined her older brother Mark at the University of California, Berkeley. As an aspiring doctor majoring in molecular and cell biology, she brought an unheard of diligence to her studies, winning the Pilipino American Alliance's "Most Likely to be at the Library on a Friday Night." She was an active member of the Pilipino community, serving as the alliance's academic co-chairperson and becoming involved with both Pilipino American Student Services and Maganda Magazine.

Her life was tragically cut short in Eshleman Hall on Feb. 7, 1992. She was survived by her eldest brother John, her older brother Mark, her younger sister Danielle, her father Edward, her mother Aida and extended family. On Oct. 4, 1993, along the path between Eshleman Hall and Zellerbach Auditorium, a tree was planted in her memory; in 1997, a bench was placed underneath her tree, bearing a brass plaque with her name and a brief inscription which reads: "In Memory of Grace Rualo Asuncion/Slain in Eshleman Hall/An Intelligent, Vibrant, Committed Student Who Will Always Be Remembered/From Her Friends."

I was there for the ceremonial opening of the bench. I remember my family gathering together to remember and commemorate Grace, and I find it touching that even now, 17 years later, and hopefully for years to come, students remember, commemorate and celebrate her life.

I was very young when she passed, and as her cousin, my own memories of Grace consist of brief yet candid snapshots-I remember thinking she was pretty; I remember her always laughing or smiling; I remember her being extremely nice to me; I remember her being best friends with her older brother Mark; and I remember her being well loved by her family. Whenever I see Grace's bench and tree, I become thankful for the blessing of life. I have been blessed with many things in life, and although I always, at some juncture, inevitably start to take those things for granted, I always get a rude awakening because of the painful reminder staring me starkly in my face.

It hits close to home, Grace's tragedy, because she was someone we all knew-she lived in Clark Kerr and worked at Yogurt Park. Something similar could happen to you or me or someone we know. Life is a gift; we should always remember it so.

I wish others would be able to see life as a gift-that no matter what hardships come our way, we always cherish life's sweet treasures and not let the little things in life bog us down. I wish we felt free to truly capture our passions and run with them; I wish we were better able to appreciate what is truly important in life-friends and family.

Grace was foremost a person, aside from her extracurricular activities in the Pilipino community. Her activities did not define her; her values did. An extraordinarily beautiful person both inside and out, Grace was, is and will forever remain a beloved daughter, sister, friend, confidant and more. Her vibrant spirit, caring and compassionate soul, laughter and beaming smile made everyone around her happy and joyful inside. For that, I mourn that her sun was eclipsed at high noon. I mourn that the promise she showed early in life was never allowed to fully blossom and take flight.

To those of you who have read this far, I charge you with an important task: Take time out of your busy schedules. Seek out the stillness of your heart. Reflect. Re-evaluate your life and the direction it is heading. Ask yourself if this is where you really want to go; ask yourself if you are truly following your passions; and ask yourself if you are spending enough and truly appreciating time with cherished friends and family.

Follow your passions, dreams, hopes, and desires, and fulfill the promise you have beckoning inside you-Grace was never given the chance. Always keep in mind that in an existence so fragile, so delicate, and, at times, seemingly so futile that you are suffused with a blessing so sublime-the ability to live, breathe, walk, talk, and act.

This Feb. 7 marked the 17th anniversary of Grace's death. A lot of good things were, are and continue to be done in her name. After her death, heightened security measures on campus were undertaken, and every student is safer because of them. There are a couple scholarships in her name. But more than that, I have learned a lot from her and will continue to do so. That is why I hope others will remember her, keep her memory alive and learn what I have.

Miss you Grace.


Dwight Asuncion is a UC Berkeley alumnus. Reply at [email protected]

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