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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Remembering Andy Gil: UF alumnus leaves lasting impact on friends, faculty

Andy Gil is remembered for his generosity, leadership on and off campus

Andy Gil was known for his never-ending kindness and his dedication to helping others. UF students and faculty around him looked up to him as a leader and leaned on his guidance and positive attitude.

The 22-year-old UF psychology alumnus died in a Gainesville hit-and-run Feb. 29.

Before his graduation in May 2023, Gil was heavily involved in student organizations, including Alpha Epsilon Delta, a pre-health honors society in which he held several leadership positions. 

Dominic Maglione, a 21-year-old UF microbiology senior and president of AED, remembers Gil for his friendly, optimistic personality.

“He was the kindest person I think I have ever met,” Maglione said. “He just always had a smile on his face, and he was always welcoming to everyone.”

Maglione remembers playing a game of assassins with Gil in AED. Members were assigned a target and had to “get them out with a spoon,” he said.

“We got really into it for some reason,” he said. “Don’t ask me why, but that was kind of our connecting thing. When we first met, we both realized how competitive we were and how into the game we were.”

Gil and Maglione went to other members’ classes and waited outside “just to get them out,” he said.

“The amount of times we’d go [to] different places and we’d always have these stupid spoons in our hand and we looked dumb,” he said. “Looking back, I miss it, you know?”

Maglione met Gil through a bigs and littles program in AED. When Maglione joined during the first semester of his sophomore year, Gil became his big.

They grew closer over the years, becoming friends and roommates. Maglione greatly valued their friendship, he said.

“He was someone that you could always go to for support or anything,” he said. “He was just so level-headed and was able to find the good in any situation.”

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He also admired Gil’s generosity, he said.

“He worked at Cava and even just a week ago, I was having a rough week and I went in to go get food, and he gave me a free bowl just because,” Maglione said. “He genuinely cared about people.”

Gil picked up multiple roles throughout his involvement in AED. When Maglione first joined, Gil was a director of the Student Arts in Medicine division. After that, he served as one of the public relations directors. 

He later ran and was elected as the organization’s president, a role Maglione believed he was perfectly suited for.

“I think that’s where he really was able to shine the most,” he said. “He was just such a welcoming presence, and he made sure he knew everyone’s name and he genuinely cared to check in.”

During Gil’s time as president, AED meetings were never a hassle, Maglione said.

“At our meetings, it was never like, ‘Oh, we have to go,’” he said. “It was just like, ‘Oh, we’re excited to go, he’s going to be leading the meeting and it’s going to be super fun.’”

Maglione is the current AED president and looks to Gil’s time in the position for inspiration. He hopes to express the same leadership traits Gil exhibited in the position, he said. 

“He’s taught me what it means to lead by example, how to be someone that people want to emulate, and that’s kind of what I’m trying to do in my role,” he said. “I want to embody the qualities that he had of being friendly and caring and approachable.”

Joslyn Ahlgren, a UF Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology professor and the faculty advisor for AED, admired Gil for his proactive nature.

“He was very into the weeds, in a really good way,” Ahlgren said. “He really wanted to leave AED better than how he found it.”

Ahlgren met Gil when he became the AED president. The organization has high standards, but Gil fit them well, she said.

“You don’t get into a pre-health honors organization without being quite bright and quite driven, both of which are qualities that I would say Andy was,” she said.

Gil was also a student in Ahlgren’s anatomy class one semester. He enjoyed collaborating with other students, Ahlgren said.

“I would say he was social with a purpose,” Ahlgren said. “It wasn’t just like, ‘Oh, I like people, I like to hang out.’ It seemed much more, with Andy, he was a very conscientious type of person.”

In AED, Gil was highly liked by his peers and “elected president easily,” which Ahlgren attributes to his enthusiasm to work with others, she said.

“He was very open to communicating in a way that was, you know, ‘I’ll share what I have, please share with me what you have,’” she said.

While many of the students Ahlgren works with are reluctant to collaborate with one another, Gil didn’t have that kind of hesitancy, she said.

“He was willing to work with people he didn’t know and he didn’t avoid those types of academic social interactions because of all the barriers that could possibly get in the way,” Ahlgren said. “That’s a really rare quality in students.”

Ahlgren considers being a faculty member at UF “a two-way street,” she said. Gil’s leadership and willingness to learn deeply impacted her, Ahlgren said.

“He was curious about methods to be a better leader. He was curious about methods that would make communications more effective and more efficient,” she said. “Getting to work with a student who is that driven to be better makes me want to also improve the way I do things.”

As a professor, Ahlgren loves seeing her students “launch into these glorious lives” as they pursue their future careers. That’s what made the news of Gil’s passing that much more difficult to hear, she said.

“It’s really, really inspiring and it makes you feel like what you’re doing as a faculty member is worth your time and effort,” she said. “To see that snipped short is just beyond tragic.”

Gil left a lasting impact on many of his peers, including Jordan Buisch, a 21-year-old UF environmental engineering senior and member of AED.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but he was just the best person that I have ever met,” she said. “He was always so kind, so welcoming. He definitely touched the lives of every single person that he met.”

AED hosts a hiking trip each summer to support the Climb for Cancer Foundation. As someone with “bad knees [and] bad joints” who doesn’t consider herself outdoorsy, Buisch was reluctant to take part. Gil was the one who encouraged her to go on the trip last summer, she said.

“I went and it was one of the hardest things I have ever done,” Buisch said. “I don’t think I could have done it without him.”

Gil stuck beside her on the trail and helped her remain optimistic, she said.

“Every time I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to carry on, it’s like he knew. It’s like he was just right behind me, right next to me,” Buisch said, “And all of a sudden he was talking to me or singing songs with me [and] just making me feel more positive about the situation.”

While it could be “frustrating at times,” Gil always gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, she said. He assumed the best of people and was patient with them, Buisch said.

“Something that he never seemed to run out of was patience,” she said. “That’s something that I’m going to try really hard to carry with me for the rest of my life as a way to honor him.”

Gil leaves behind his parents and four siblings.

Contact Bailey Diem at bdiem@alligator.org. Follow her on X @BaileyDiem.

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Bailey Diem

Bailey Diem is a first-year journalism major and a metro general assignment reporter for The Alligator. When not reporting, Bailey can be found playing guitar or getting lost in a book.


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