Legacy of UD graduate who died hours after graduation to live on through scholarship, family says

DAYTON — The family of a University of Dayton graduate is now working to honor his memory.

Ian Brunner graduated from UD in May.

He had plans to get his master’s degree and then start his career.

But just hours after getting his mechanical engineering diploma, he died in an accident on campus.

Ian’s mom reached out to News Center 7′s John Bedell to talk about honoring her son’s legacy and lifting up future students.

The view from Jennifer Brunner’s office at the University of Pittsburgh includes a window into the past.

“May 7 began early in the morning” she recalled.

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It was graduation day for her son, Ian at UD.

She can tell you the seats they had in the upper reaches of the UD arena.

“I had texted him and said, ‘Ian, now, we’re way up here. the only way I’m going to get a picture is off of the jumbo screens. so I said, ‘please make sure when you receive it … take time, look at the camera,” Jennifer said.

And she can show you that moment she captured on her phone.

But she can also tell you how she felt just hours later back home in Pittsburgh when she got the news.

“That evening, it was after 8:00, I got the public service call. and when I picked up, it was the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office. and, a mother knows,” she said.

In a parking lot on campus, Ian was trying to repair the exhaust of his beloved Mazda Miata before his drive home to join his family the next day.

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“I saw him under cars hundreds of times. hundreds,” Jennifer said. " Why this happened … it’s just said.”

Ian’s car fell from the jack and killed him.

“It was awful news to receive. because we went from such a high that day to — unimaginable news,” she said.

To honor Ian’s legacy, the Brunner family has worked with UD to create a permanent memorial scholarship in Ian’s name.

Every year, it’ll support future Flyer engineering students in need of financial assistance.

“That’s why we decided the scholarship would be a good route to fulfill many of those goals that that we had set for ourselves as his parents and goals that he had set for himself,” she said.

After life changed in a moment back in May, the Brunners are persevering, making sure Ian’s legacy lives on.

“We’ve been appealing to friends and family, alumni to parents of children, to engineers across the country who would be interested in donating to this endowed scholarship in Ian’s name. Because what will happen is we’re at $80,000 presently. We have about another $20,000 plus to go. Once it reaches $100,000, every single academic year at least a $4,000 award will go to a student,” Jennifer said.

A window into his past now influencing the future of others.

“We were so looking forward to seeing the kind of impact he would make,” she said. “But at least through the scholarship we’ll see (that) he’ll continue to make an impact through other people. and I guess that’s how most of us make our big impact is only through others.”

Ian was also an organ donor. Jennifer said the family still has Ian’s car and they find “great joy” in driving it and listening to his music.

Jamie Ervin, chair of UD’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said on behalf of his department’s faculty and staff:

“Ian was a very talented student, particularly when it came to machines and mechanisms. One of his favorite courses was Theory of Machines where he lightheartedly designed a Cheez-It gun for a project and, on the more serious side, a 3-D printed robot for other students to use for visualization purposes. His successes at applying ideas learned in class to situations outside of class and his enthusiasm separated him from most of his peers. He will be remembered fondly.”

UD officials said the first scholarship in Ian’s name will be awarded for the first time next year for the 2024-25 school year.

Gifts can be made online to the Ian Timothy Brunner Endowed Memorial Scholarship by visiting here.

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