ENG student recalled for his kindness and humor
By Rich Barlow, BU Today
Anthony Barksdale was a generous soul who hosted two international students, one his roommate, at their first Thanksgiving last fall. He was also a gentle prankster. Just days before his untimely death Saturday, he elevated one roommate’s bed.
“He was kind enough to fix it after the joke was over,” says Fred Schmidt (SMG’16).
A wake for Barksdale (ENG’16) will be held this Friday, followed on Saturday by a memorial service at 9 a.m. in his hometown of Amherst, N.H. (details below). He died after attending an unregistered off-campus party thrown by Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, which has beensuspended by the University and its national organization for reports of underage drinking and intoxication at the party. Barksdale had recently joined the fraternity.
As grieving family and friends prepared to say good-bye in his hometown, memorials of various forms sprouted around campus. Schmidt, a good friend who lived next door to Barksdale in the Towers, on Bay State Road, says a memorial board has been put up in the residence’s common room. Among the remembrances posted:
“There was nobody more genuine, you will truly be missed.”
“The soul of Towers 3 West.”
“It seems like just the other day we were tackling kids at the esplanade during the snowbrawl.”
“Your smile always made our day, we will miss you.”
His generosity stood out for Lauren Tzirides (CAS’16). “I remember passing him in the Towers lobby as I was about to brave the cold without a jacket, and he took his own off his back and gave it to me to wear.” His trademark approach to making people feel good, she says, was massive and liberally offered hugs: “He had loads of hugs in those arms.”
Marissa Petersile (ENG’15) transferred to the College of Engineering from the College of Arts & Sciences after her freshman year. “He took to calling me ‘Sophomore’ every time he saw me,” she says, because she was the only sophomore in a class she took with Barksdale. “He did this even as of last week, even though by now it had just become a joke.” (She reciprocated by keeping his name listed in her cell phone as Tony Freshman.)
She recalls a tenacious friend who, needing her help with schoolwork but not knowing her room, scoped out her entire dormitory before finding the door with her name tag. A dedicated student, he was a rare freshman attending a recent event showcasing mechanical engineering research, says Petersile.
While sharing her memories, she also shared a wish directed at her friend: “I wish I could have known you more, Tony, but I promise, you’ll shine on.”
“He was the most sincere, gentle, caring, and friendliest person that you could ever hope to meet,” recalls fellow Towers dweller Ty Sweeney (CAS’16). “The halls of 3 West are much quieter without him; he was the soul of our community.”
Instructors recall his sharp mind. Sheryl Grace taught Barksdale in her Introduction to Wind Energy class. “The blade he designed for our simple wind turbine tabletop test outperformed all of the others,” the College of Engineering associate professor remembers. “This was a truly chance occurrence, because of the approach taken in the class to the design of the blades, but it was a great outcome and gave everyone pause for thought. I remember him simply smiling at the outcome.”
For another assignment, he compared U.S., Chinese, and Irish policies towards wind energy. “The eclectic selection of comparison countries, and the strong argument he was able to make because he selected these two foreign countries, made an impression on me,” Grace says.
Barksdale had a work-study job helping to set up demonstrations in the CAS physics department. “We all remember him as upbeat, cheerful, and always interested in talking more about physics,” says Manher Jariwala, a master lecturer.
Mac Schwager, an ENG assistant professor of mechanical engineering, had Barksdale in his freshman advising group, helping acclimate engineering majors to their studies. He had a handful of one-on-one sessions with him, and he recalls an “upbeat and friendly guy” and “lively participant” in group meetings. “He liked to make people laugh, and he liked to be in the middle of whatever was going on,” Schwager says. “At the same time, I never had the feeling that he was being rowdy or disrespectful.” He says Barksdale was especially interested in computer engineering and aeronautical design, the latter not surprising for a young man who was a pilot and flew Cessna planes.
Also an avid snowmobiler and four-wheeler, Barksdale was a 2012 graduate of Souhegan High School in Amherst, where he played football and varsity basketball, earning the Coach’s Award senior year. He was the recipient of a U.S. Marine Corps Scholastic Excellence Award and a Humanities Award.
He is survived by his father, Anthony W. Barksdale I of Nashua, N.H.; his mother and stepfather, Melanie (Faye) and Randy Ricard of Mont Vernon, N.H.; a sister, Alisa Faye of Mont Vernon; his grandparents, Karen Faye of Hampton, N.H., Freda Barksdale of Nashua, N.H., and Donald and Marion Ricard of Waterbury, Vt.; and aunts, uncles, and cousins.
A wake for Anthony Barksdale will be held Friday, March 8, from 3 to 8 p.m., at the Smith & Heald Funeral Home, 63 Elm St., Milford, N.H. A memorial celebration will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 9, at Souhegan High School, 412 Boston Post Rd., Amherst, N.H. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire, 545 New Hampshire 101, Bedford, NH 03110. The University is providing bus transportation to Saturday’s service; find information here.