Friends honor UT sophomore at prayer service

Jillian Bliss

University Catholic Center director Edward Nowak read prayers and scriptures in an otherwise silent chapel where loved ones of business sophomore Richard Holland gathered to remember him.

Holland, 19, accidentally fell from the fifth floor balcony of his apartment at the Block on Pearl Street Monday night, according to the Austin Police Department. He was transported to University Medical Center Brackenridge and later pronounced dead. APD could not comment on if there was alcohol involved.

Approximately 40 of Holland’s friends attended the prayer service honoring him at the UCC Tuesday. Holland was a graduate of Plano West Senior High School. More than 100 friends and acquittances left notes on his Facebook page, many of them expressing what a happy, upbeat person Holland was.

Nowak blessed the people who attended the service, many of whom shared hugs and tears among the candlelight.

“All of the campus ministries, whatever people’s background, have ministers always available for counseling,” Nowak said after the service. “It’s good that we could provide a place where people could gather together and comfort one another.”

Sam Tillery, a sophomore at the Colorado School of Mines, said he caught the first flight from Denver to Austin when he learned of his friend’s death.

“I’ve known Richard since kindergarten,” Tillery said. “We played on every sports team together growing up and lived along the same block. I don’t think there was a day we didn’t see each other [until college].”

Tillery said he and Holland were members of a close-knit group that included finance junior Ali Mavrakis, who also attended the service. Tillery said while his real family is overseas and communication with them is difficult, he takes comfort in his friendship with Mavrakis and others who were close to Holland.

“Towards the end of the service people started to remember fond memories,” Mavrakis said. “People that were sobbing, they were laughing. It’s helped to be able to come together, and he’s going to be remembered well.”

Printed on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 as: Friends honor UT sophomore at memorial.