Feb 072011
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Eric Charles Spry loved running more than anybody on this planet.

“It’s not even an exaggeration,” said John O’Neill, a CSU junior journalism major who knew him since their days on the Battle Mountain High School cross-country team in Edwards. “… He probably knew more about running, and he was probably more fired up to run than anybody who had laced up their shoes that day.”

Spry passed away at Poudre Valley Hospital Friday afternoon after being rushed by ambulance from his dorm room in Braiden Hall. Deputy Coroner James MacNaughton said the likely cause of death was pneumonia, a strain that CSU’s Executive Director of Housing and Dining Services Jim Dolak said is highly unlikely to be contagious.

Spry’s death stunned the Key Community, members of which were joking and high-fiving him the night before.

“At first, I think there was just shock,” said Megan Quinn, a CSU freshman ethnic studies major who lived next to Spry and was with him before paramedics rushed into his room. “No one could really believe it. Everyone was just really upset and blown away that it was possible for him to be laughing and talking to us
in the hall twelve hours earlier.”

Upward of 350 CSU students, faculty and staff, parents and family watched a slideshow of his life unfold Monday night, remembering all the times they witnessed in person what they called his contagious smile, his sincere friendship and his passion for people.

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift’,” said Tae Nosaka, director of the CSU key communities at Spry’s vigil in Braiden Hall’s main lobby. “This is the quote Eric chose to submit to us when he applied for Key Service … From what I know about Eric, he never once sacrificed that gift.”

One of Spry’s gifts, O’Neill said, was running. During his days at BMHS, Spry was nominated for male athlete of the year.

He was starting to train for the Colfax half marathon this year, after placing second in his age group in a similar Boulder race back in September of 2010, said Thomas van Cleave, a teacher at Edwards Elementary School who mentored Spry after his dad died when he was in fifth grade.

Other time commitments kept him from participating with the CSU cross-country and track & field teams. But Spry “just always wanted to get better, and he wanted to help out anybody along the way,” O’Neill said.
According to BMHS records, he was part of the school’s National Honor Society and had a 4.0 GPA from at least 2008.

“He was in multiple Advanced Placement classes and was a good student; he would always offer his help to me in AP Government and AP English Language no matter how long it took to explain something to me and was so encouraging throughout our high school years,” said Lia Palmer, a CU-Boulder freshman who knew Spry since kindergarten.

Although this was his first year at CSU, Spry was so far advanced in his coursework that he was already a sophomore in credits at the time of his death.

To O’Neill, news of Spry’s academic excellence came as no surprise. His work ethic was incredible, he said, and if he poured as much effort into his studies as he did into practicing running, “he probably couldn’t get much better grades.”

But Spry struck a balance between school, running and community service. He mentored freshmen at BMHS as a Link Crew Leader, tutored elementary school children, helped in highway clean ups, Thanksgiving food drives, frequently taught underprivileged youth how to snowboard and was a member of the Key Service community in Braiden Hall –– a CSU program that has its participants live on the same floor and volunteer together in the community.

“It was this love of helping people that helped him decide to choose his major of health and exercise science.  He wanted to become a physical therapist,” Van Cleave said.

Perhaps O’Neill said it best:

“You could say he was a runner, you could say he was big into his services, you could say he was a great student, but no words will ever give justice to how great of moral character he had. That’s what he had. He had integrity, he had character, he had sincerity, and he was incredible.”

ASCSU Beat Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 4:47 pm

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