Northwestern remembers the life of Ananya Agrawal
  • Members of Phi Mu Alpha raise their fists toward the end of "Red and Black."
  • Members of Phi Mu Alpha sing "Red and Black" as Meenakshi Agrawal, Agrawal’s mother, looks on.
  • Jessica Beard, Agrawal's former girlfriend, speaks during the personal remembrances portion of Agrawal's memorial service.
Photos by Karli Goldenberg / North by Northwestern

Members of the Northwestern community came together Wednesday evening to remember Ananya Agrawal, a Weinberg senior who died last weekend. Phi Mu Alpha, the Northwestern music fraternity on campus that Agrawal was a member of, hosted the memorial so that Agrawal's family and friends could come together in his memory.

As the memorial began, a line of people signing a book (in which everyone wrote their name and how the met Agrawal) stretched around the room and extended beyond the doors of Alice Millar Chapel. Then, the Phi Mu Brothers paid tribute to Agrawal through what they know best: music. Renditions of everything from Mozart’s second movement of Clarinet Concerto in A major to Blink 182’s “I miss you” filled the chapel.

After the singing, Agrawal's fraternity brothers discussed how the name Ananya translates to “one-of-a-kind” or “having no equivalent.” The brothers and Agrawal's other loved ones relayed their favorite memories with him to demonstrate how they thought Agrawal lived up to his name. 

“I wish that someway, somehow, we could spend some more time together,” Weinberg senior and Phi Mu Alpha brother Adrick Tench said.

Phi Mu Alpha brother José Martinez, sent his thoughts all of the way from California: “Even when I was tired of Northwestern or life, you were Ananya. I can’t really explain what that means, but and I’m sure that everyone else here understands,” Lam read.

Friends remembered Agrawal for his “bone-crushing hugs,” his "likable awkwardness," his “incredible passion in everything he did,” his caring nature, his empathy and his “relentlessly strong spirit.”

As University Chaplain Tim Stevens spoke, brothers of Phi Mu Alpha leaned onto each other’s shoulders and patted each other's backs to offer support.

MIT graduate student Jessica Beard, who met Agrawal on his first day of classes in organic chemistry described him as, “my classmate, my labmate, my boyfriend, but more importantly, my friend.” Beard remembered teaching Agrawal the proper amount of detergent to use when washing dishes, helping him when his lightbulb’s filament broke, and reaching out when Agrawal had overslept during class, among other memories. 

“It’s the laughter and joy and the hugs… that I want us all to hold on to. As much as I hate that we’re all here having to have these conversations, I know that I couldn’t, I know that we all couldn’t – I just know that he’s changed all of us for the better,” Beard said.

McCormick senior and Phi Mu Alpha member Tushar Chandra said that Agrawal “was the foundation to our chapter choir,” saying that music was “a part of the very fabric of his life.” He spoke to Agrawal’s spirit of determination in all of his pursuits.

“He wanted to continue his college here at Northwestern, so he did. He wanted to be in marching band, so he joined. ” Chandra said. “He chose to learn the alto saxophone months before coming here just so that he could be in marching band, so he did.”

Meenakshi Agrawal, Agrawal’s mother, spoke last, explaining that she was not sure “if [she] would have the composure to do so.” She remembered Agrawal's affectionate spirit in particular: “His hugs, they were very very special to me.”

“We are very very grateful, very touched by the amount of love and respect that all of you had for our son. … Ananya is a boy who has brought so much joy in our lives,” Agrawal's mother said. “We are so happy that he was loved, that he was held to such high regard, that he’s actually done over here what he was meant to do.”

Phi Mu Alpha ended the memorial with “The Red and Black,” the same song that they end their concerts with. Brothers stood together and swayed with their hands on each other’s shoulders. Near the end of the song, they raised their fists and continued swaying. After the song, brothers embraced one another and wiped away their tears. 

“Ananya’s life was more than just a biological state. He was a presence,” Weinberg senior and Phi Mu Alpha member Ethan Roubenoff said. “While Ananya is gone, he has never been more alive.”

This story was updated May 31 at 8:46 a.m. to correct the spelling of Roubenoff's last name and to clarify who authored the statement from California. NBN regrets these errors. 


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