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Aerial View of the Dowagiac Campus

Scholarship remembers Ryan Hartman

Southwestern Michigan College’s Ryan Anthony Hartman Memorial Scholarship will be for Niles Brandywine High School graduates entering the medical field or pursuing a degree in the teaching profession.

One student will be awarded $200 this fall and $200 in the spring of 2015.

Elementary teaching is what Ryan was studying at SMC in December 2009 when he was diagnosed with a rare pediatric cancer.

DSRCT, or desmoplastic small round-cell tumors, are aggressive and primarily occur as masses in the abdomen.

“He fought until the end and was going to beat it,” said his mother, Julie.

The Hartmans, of Niles, are an SMC family.

Julie and her husband, Ray, met at SMC, which Ryan and two of his three brothers, Eric and Tyler, attended.

Ryan, born Sept. 28, 1987, was 26 when he died Feb. 4, 2014, determined to vanquish his invisible enemy.

In Facebook posts, he wrote, “Don’t ever let anybody put limits on your life. With strength we can all achieve anything we want.”

“Rise above your problems in life, stay up, be strong, believe, have hope and never give up.”

“Everyone should take a moment today and think about all the things they are fortunate to have and not worry about what they don’t have. What you have is really all that matters.”

More than four years ago, at the beginning of his battle, Team Ryan shirts were printed for those who wanted to support him and be on his “team.” More than 170 sold.

The front of the royal blue shirts with bright green and white lettering said “Stay Up, Beat Cancer” in a circle around a cross.

On the back it said “Team Ryan” with Family and Friends along with businesses which donated.

On the bottom it said "faith, hope, love” inside matching icons.

There were also 700 Team Ryan silicone bracelets made to sell that said “Stay Up/Be Strong” and “Team Ryan.”

Team Ryan shirt elements will grace his monument at Silverbrook Cemetery in Niles.

“Team Ryan has been around for a long time,” his mother said. “Ryan’s signature slogan changed over the years, starting with Stay Up, Beat Cancer and ending with Stay Up, Be Strong, Believe, Always Have Hope and Never Give Up! And that’s how he lived until the very end. He never gave up. He was an inspiration to many as he reminded us all to appreciate all that we have. With Ryan’s memorial scholarship in place, people still have the chance to be on Team Ryan and to be a part of his name going on into the future.”

In his final high school track meet in 2006, the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder hurled a discus 141 feet, 3 inches, to set the school record.

In the fall of 2009, at the dedication of Brandywine’s new track and football facility, the record holder was proud to be introduced at the football game.
On April 30, 2011, Jake Frazier erased Ryan’s name from the record board with a 147-2 toss.

Younger brother Evan exited the baseball team junior year to reclaim the mark for the Hartman family and his hero, Ryan, who had been through so much, yet stayed positive and never stopped smiling.

At the Benton Harbor Rotary Meet in 2012, Evan, a two-time state champion, succeeded with a 159-7 throw enroute to a collegiate career with Michigan State University.

Sports were one of Ryan’s passions. He helped his dad coach Little League baseball and midget basketball. He umpired for the same baseball league in which he played.

The Detroit Tigers were his favorite team. He played percussion in band and loved disc golf, fishing, playing in fantasy leagues and visiting casinos.
Cooking was another passion. Mrs. Hartman said her second son was a “foodie” who considered studying hospitality. He was always experimenting, whether new Chex mixes or pasta salads.

SMC Foundation accepts contributions to existing scholarships in addition to establishing new scholarships.

Direct donations to: SMC Foundation, Director of Development, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac, MI 49047.

Contact Eileen Toney at (269) 782-1301 or etoney@swmich.edu for more information.