Remembering a beloved alum

Matthias Henze

If the memory of a good person is a blessing, those who attended the memorial service for beloved alumnus Israel Ahimbisibwe in the Rice Chapel Feb. 5 were certainly blessed. Members of the Department of Religion shared many fond memories of Ahimbisibwe as they paid tribute to his life and tried to cope with his tragic death. Ahimbisibwe, his wife and 5-year-old son were found dead in their apartment Feb. 2; his 19-year-old son has been arrested and charged with their murder.

Israel Ahimbisibwe

Israel Ahimbisibwe

Department Chair April DeConick and fellow faculty members Elias Bongmba and Matthias Henze and graduate students Aundrea Matthews, Rachel Vlachos and Claire Villarreal spoke at the service, where the native Ugandan’s big smile, always-positive attitude, concern for others, sense of hope and willingness to work hard and succeed were mentioned often. Ahimbisibwe, who received an M.A. and a Ph.D. in religious studies from Rice in 2009 and 2011, respectively, and had been involved with the Rice African Student Association, Black Graduate Student Association and Rice Graduate Christian Fellowship, was an Episcopal priest at the Church of the Redeemer. The Right Rev. Andrew Doyle, the IX Bishop of Texas and the Diocese of Texas, ended the service with a reminder that it is normal to “feel both joy and love as well as sadness and grief” during this “personally painful” time. He encouraged everyone to “keep telling the stories of Israel.”

The funeral service for the Ahimbisibwes is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Feb. 19 at St. John the Divine, 2450 River Oaks Blvd.

Pictured above: During a reception after the memorial service, Henze lights a candle in memory of Ahimbisibwe, for whom he served as doctoral adviser.

About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.