Aran Rana, a member of the Class of 2019 in the College of Arts and Sciences who was on a leave of absence from Penn, died on Monday at his home in Hong Kong. The death was an apparent suicide, according to one of Rana’s classmates from secondary school and media reports in Hong Kong.
Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum announced his death in an email to all undergraduates on Wednesday afternoon.
Aran’s “friendliness, his kindness, and his vivaciousness is what stands out ... that’s really what touched most people,” Aran’s parent, Aditya Rana, said in a statement included in the email.
Rana, who lived in Riepe College House as a freshman, is likely the thirteenth Penn student since February 2013 to die by suicide.
Several Hong Kong media outlets described details of a death by suicide on Monday, with identifying details that mirror Rana’s ethnic background, age, area of study at Penn and place of residence. Two outlets referred to the person who died as “Aran” without giving a last name. One of Rana's classmates from Hong Kong told The Daily Pennsylvanian that the media reports were correct and Rana died by suicide.
Attempts on Tuesday to contact the journalists responsible for those reports were unsuccessful and a spokesperson for the coroner in Hong Kong who pronounced the death confirmed the substance of the incident described in the reports, but would not provide the name of the person who died. A spokesperson at Rana's secondary school declined to comment over the phone on Tuesday and did not answer a follow-up email.
“Every loss of a member of the Penn community is a loss to our entire community, and I urge you to comfort each other as you process this difficult news,” Cade said. “Talk, listen, and be there for your roommates and classmates. Check in with friends and family.”
Rana’s friends remembered him as a bubbly, friendly person who loved helping people.
College sophomore Naome Elegant, who was on Rana’s freshman hall and lived in a house with him before he began his leave of absence in the fall of their sophomore year, described Rana as one of her closest friends. Both are from Hong Kong and were passionate about photography.
“He was just this real goofy, funny weird great kid,” she said. “Everyone that met him loved him and was like, ‘Wow, he’s such a beautiful person.’”
College sophomore Colin Lodewick, another one of Rana's friends, also touched on his unusual friendliness.
"I see things differently now because of Aran, and I know that I'm a better person for having known him," he said in a Facebook message. "And I know everyone else close to him feels the same way, that his presence was an unusual one that was very permeating and very magical."
College sophomore Navya Dasari met Rana when she dropped her keys in the dark during New Student Orientation their freshman year. Even though they were strangers, he helped her find them.
“Aran was my best friend, the person I trusted and depended on most at Penn, and someone who was with me every step of the way,” she said in a Facebook message. “I’m so grateful to have known someone so incredibly special.”
Dasari remembered Rana bringing her to an art show he’d found on Facebook. When they arrived at the location, the art show turned out to be a private showing, but Rana was so friendly that the hosts invited them inside for dinner.
“His unique way of looking at the world, whether in his mind or through his camera, made me see everything in a new light,” Dasari wrote. “And he’s the person who knew everything about me, because he made me feel safe enough to tell him, no matter what it was. His presence was bright, beautiful, powerful, and reassuring. I love him so much.”
Print Director Lucien Wang contributed reporting.
Penn is keeping a book for community members to write thoughts, memories, or well wishes. The book will be sent to Aran's home in Hong Kong. To write a message, contact Lindsay Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her office at 3611 Locust Walk.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Aran Rana was the twelfth Penn student since February 2013 to have died by suicide. He is the thirteenth student.