Daily Egyptian

‘He cared a tremendous amount about people,’ tenth anniversary of Rendleman’s death

By Kitt Fresa, Features Editor

“Devout Christian, photographer, writer, editor and friend” are the words written on a plaque resting in front of a redbud tree planted ten years ago in dedication to Ryan Rendleman, photojournalism student at SIU from Batavia and a photographer for the Daily Egyptian.

April 29th, 2018 marks the ten year anniversary of Rendleman’s passing. He was 22-years-old and a few weeks from graduation when on his way to an assignment for the Daily Egyptian, he was fatally struck by a tractor-trailer on Highway 127 in Washington County.

“Ryan had already been hired by The Southern to be their photo intern for the summer and would probably move on to be a full time photographer for them,” William Recktenwald, a senior lecturer in the School of Journalism said.

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Family members accepted Rendleman’s diploma posthumously during commencement ceremonies during the spring of his passing.

Recktenwald said when the announcement of his accident was made in the Daily Egyptian newsroom, the staff were inconsolable.

“Ryan was very popular with everybody in the newsroom, he didn’t make any enemies,” Recktenwald said. “He was just a really nice person and they were being told he was dead.”

Phil Greer a photojournalism professor from SIU who taught Rendleman said he was passionate, concerned and grew by leaps and bounds during his time at SIU.

“Sometimes I think I learned as much from Ryan as he did from me,” Greer said. “He picked journalism because he wanted to help people.”

Greer said he worked extensively with Rendleman and the two were very close.

“He cared a tremendous amount about people,” Greer said. “One thing about him, he was always giving and he was very very involved here on campus, with the paper and with the stories that he did.” 

Greer said on the day Rendleman died, he came up to him in his class and explained he had to leave for an assignment for the Daily Egyptian. Rendleman was offered a handout photo by the family who was being covered by the story but he chose to take photos in person instead.

“He always wanted to really tell people’s stories, visit their world and share their world with others,” said Sean McGahan, a past employee of the Daily Egyptian who worked with Rendleman. “So when I heard that he was on his way, going out of his way to visit this young child with Tay-Sachs disease that didn’t surprise me at all.”

Rendleman died on his way to that assignment.

McGahan said Rendleman took the extra time to follow his heart and do the right thing, making sure he got a unique story and contributed to sharing other people’s experiences.

On March 30th, 2009 Rendleman’s name was added to the Journalists Memorial at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. where he became the first student journalist to be honored beside 1,900 fellow professionals who gave their life as a journalist.

Recktenwald went to the memorial when Rendleman was added to the wall. 

Recktenwald said every journalist that was honored by the memorial that year had their photograph and stories put on the wall until their memorials go into a database. In the database people can search for certain journalists and see the memorial they were given.

Recktenwald who worked with Rendleman for the better part of four years, said he was a quiet student, had a good sense of humor and worked hard. He said somewhere along the line Rendleman became very religious and followed his faith as a Christian.

“That was a huge part of his life,” McGahan said. “He was not shy about talking about his faith with anyone, he was not shy about inviting everyone to come to church with him, he was not shy about talking about any of his convictions.”

Recktenwald said one of Rendleman’s goals was to go to Africa to do mission work. McGahan said he talked with Rendleman often about traveling to other countries, especially several countries in Africa.

“He was getting ready to graduate when he passed away and he was always thinking about what can he really do to stretch himself and stretch the people around him to understand the plights of others,” McGahan said.

A scholarship was created in memorial of Rendleman called The Ryan Rendleman Scholarship. It was funded by faculty and Rendleman’s parents and continues to be open to donations, the first recipient of the award was Emily Sunblade.

Features editor Kitt Fresa can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @KittFresa.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news,  follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

Correction: In the print edition of this story the Daily Egyptian wrote the ten year anniversary of Rendleman’s death was April 29, 2008, this has been corrected to April 29, 2018.

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