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Passionate and selfless: friends remember Omar Osman, Class of 2026

January 27, 2023

In his short time on campus, Omar Osman ’26 made a deep and lasting impact on those who knew him. His hyper-creativity, love of computers, infectious laugh and persistent selflessness are remembered by his peers and mentors as only a few of the characteristics that made him exceptional. Omar died the night of December 3, 2022, from an allergic reaction on his way to the hospital while paramedics and a fellow student tried to help him.

His family and friends gathered for the Salat al-Janazah prayer and burial on December 6 at Gracelawn Memorial Park in Auburn. Omar was a devout Muslim, and his parents have asked that his photograph not be shared in the media.

Omar was a first-generation American and first-generation college student born in Charlotte, N.C., to parents of Somali descent. He was the adoring brother of two younger sisters who grew up with him in Lewiston. As a Questbridge and Geoffrey Canada Scholar and active participant in the Bowdoin THRIVE program, Omar assumed his characteristic leadership role during his first moments on campus.

A 2022 graduate of Lewiston High School (LHS), Omar was vice president of the student government, a member of the National Honor Society, the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council, Model United Nations, Robotics Team and Art Club. But this is only a sampling of his impressive extracurriculars. Omar painted murals in Lewiston and participated in art exhibits promoting diversity in education. He completed a project to market the expansion of his high school, a referendum which passed with 70 percent support. He was never afraid to jump headfirst into a project and do everything he could to help those around him.

“I wish everyone got to know how passionate he was,” Omar’s Geoffrey Canada Scholars mentor Shi Thompson ’24 said. “He was passionate about his friends, his family, his work. He loved Bowdoin—this was such a big dream of his. I think he appreciated everything that he did and everything that everyone did for him. I don’t think we understand the impact that he had on us—that he had on campus—in such a short amount of time.”

Deanna Ehrhardt was Omar’s digital media teacher during his four years at LHS. She described him as her “right-hand man.”

“My Omar was soft-spoken and unassuming, yet he was so high-achieving. He was a leader in and out of the classroom,” she said of his legacy at LHS. “Omar had a strong reputation with the faculty, and he also had a strong presence in the student body. His fellow classmates knew of him as this really nice guy, and he was always willing to have a kind word or just help somebody out. He was never attention-seeking in the student body or with faculty. He was a super humble guy.”

Omar’s Bowdoin professors saw his composed enthusiasm follow him into his first few months on campus.

“I always looked forward to our bi-weekly meetings,” Professor of Art and Chair of the Visual Arts Division of the Department of Art Michael Kolster, Omar’s pre-major advisor, wrote in an email to the Orient. “He usually arrived with a smile, happy to discuss his progress in classes, his adjustment to Bowdoin and his excitement for learning as much as he could about computing and coding. He exuded a calm, even unflappable, demeanor and shared freely his patience and kindness. I will miss Omar.”

Beyond his academic excellence, Omar quickly found his place within fast friendships. His close friends called him a calming presence—someone who glued the rest of them together.

“I’m a very high-energy person,” Omar’s close friend Catherine Uwakwe ’26 said. “But every time I would enter or leave a space with Omar, I would always leave with a renewed sense of calm and joy. I still feel the empty pockets of time where I would stop by his room or at his workplace in Smith [Union] at the tech hub. But I am also grateful for the time we had and all that I was able to learn from him.”

Aryan Singh ’26 met Omar during his first day on campus. From his first moments at the College, Omar made an impression. Paired as roommates in Osher Hall, Singh says the two clicked immediately.

During Singh’s first semester, he found himself struggling through his computer science course. Luckily, his roommate was the resident whiz. With a high-tech computer system on his desk and a job with Bowdoin’s Information Technology, Omar was preparing for his hopeful future career in computer science. Keen to help everyone around him, he committed to tutoring anyone who asked.

“He was honestly the nicest person—the most selfless person,” Singh said. “He had a lot more experience in computer science and was helping me a lot with learning it. And as he was helping me out, I found out that he was actually helping like five other first-years with it. I told him he should start charging people and that I would pay for his help. But he said, ‘No, I do this because I really love doing it. It helps me learn and think about problems in different ways.’”

Thompson described Omar’s selflessness as it extended past academics, remembering one of the first cold evenings on campus last fall. Walking outside, Thompson ran into Omar, who was wearing shorts and missing a jacket. He stopped her and asked if she was okay.

“Something about Omar is that it was okay to tell him that you’re not—he didn’t judge. So, I did end up telling him, ‘No, I’m not doing well.’ And he sat with me outside for 45 minutes, literally just talking about what I was going through,” Thompson said. “He changed my mood for the entire night. Then we joked about the fact that he has Maine skin because he was outside for 45 minutes, freezing, just so that he could talk to me.”

Beyond a career in computer science, Omar was working tirelessly to achieve a host of other goals. One of his dreams, Uwakwe said, was to see the world. Having spent much of his life in Maine, Omar was saving money to take a road trip across the United States.

Hours before he died, Uwakwe said she and Omar had been stretched out on the floor of her dorm room, making planners. Having told her about his long list of plans for the following days, Uwakwe suggested they complete the project together and hold each other accountable.

“I always felt sad that he never got to finish what was left on his planner,” she said. “In addition to seeing the world, he didn’t get to fix his 3D printer.”

Omar found refuge from his busy schedule with his floormates in Osher. They spent their days watching movies in each other’s rooms, working on assignments together and having weekly debriefs on Sundays. Outside of their rooms, Omar was a binding presence for the floor. One of his close friends, Ceren Sengun ’26, said his laugh could be heard all the way down the hall and that it was a signal for the floor’s residents to emerge from their rooms and be together.

Uwakwe remembered an evening she spent as she often did­­—making ramen, watching anime and laughing with Omar.

“One night we were cleaning up, and Omar had just gotten this Scrub Daddy sponge and green dawn dish soap,” she wrote in an email to the Orient. “I usually don’t like cleaning, but using the sponge made the job so much more appealing to me. I joked with him, ‘This sponge be bringing the housewife out of me!’ and I remember that he laughed so hard! Omar would always laugh throwing [his] head back and with his whole body. I rarely ever heard him chuckle or give a half-hearted laugh, but this was probably the hardest I had ever made him laugh.”

Omar’s friends threw him a birthday celebration in the fall—a memory that Sengun said marked an acknowledgement of their closeness.

“The four of us surprised Omar in his room. We were all wearing those cone party hats, and when we walked down Maine Street to have dinner, we all took them off because I guess we were embarrassed. But Omar was like, ‘No. I’m not taking it off. It’s a celebration!’”

Omar’s loyalty stretched far beyond his dedication to tutoring his classmates and donning a party hat. He was a steadfast, dependable friend.

On December 3, Singh was preparing to play his first home game as a member of the men’s squash team. Anxious with excitement and nerves, Singh asked his friends to cheer him on.

“Omar was the only one who actually showed up to the 10 a.m. game,” Singh said. “It was early, and I would’ve understood if no one came. But there was Omar, supporting me. He always supported me, even on his last day.”

“I miss his presence,” Singh said. “But most of all, I miss his laugh.”


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