About 80 people gathered Saturday at the University Auditorium for a memorial service for Christian Aguilar, where UF representatives awarded him a posthumous degree and his family announced the release of a new search-and-rescue app.
The service marked a year since the 18-year-old UF biomedical engineering freshman from Miami was found dead in Levy County after he had been missing for almost a month.
Carlos and Claudia Aguilar, Christian’s parents, thanked the UF, Gainesville and Miami communities for their help during the search.
“It was a miracle we found him,” Carlos Aguilar, 45, said.
The family also praised local police officers for their help in the search and Pedro Bravo investigation. Bravo, a 19-year-old former Santa Fe College student, is accused of killing Christian and faces multiple felony charges.
Dave Kratzer, vice president for student affairs, addressed the audience and Aguilar family members on behalf of UF President Bernie Machen.
“Although Christian was a student at UF here for a very short time,” he said, “we know Christian’s love of life extended to all of his passions.”
Student Body Vice President Joselyn Rivas praised UF volunteers for their involvement in the search.
Angela Lindner, associate dean of the College of Engineering, said Christian’s life and death created a bond in the community.
“Christian still matters here,” she said, “as a tangible symbol of the permanent bond we have with Christian and his family.”
Representatives from the engineering college and UF’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers presented the Aguilar family with an In Memoriam biomedical engineering degree, which Lindner said was the first of its kind awarded to a deceased UF student.
Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones, speaking for the two dozen law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation, said he and the officers would give the Aguilar family guidance as Bravo’s case moves to trial.
“We’ll give you some confidence as you maneuver through the next phase,” he said.
The Aguilar family also announced the release of the Christian Aguilar Child Alert application. The app, developed by the Missing Children Global Network, allows users to receive alerts about missing people and submit anonymous tips to police.
“The whole idea is to help law enforcement (and) try to be their eyes in our communities,” said Ricardo Barredo, a representative of the MCGN Advisory Board.
Jonathan Moriarty, a 20-year-old UF electrical engineering sophomore, met Christian when they attended Preview last summer. He said going to Saturday’s service was difficult.
“I don’t want to face that reality that I’m not going to bump into him on the sidewalk anymore,” he said.
A version of this story ran on page 3 on 10/14/2013 under the headline "UF awards posthumous degree to Christian Aguilar at service"