During spring break this year in Barcelona, senior Adrianna Ortega climbed a hill to a remote monastery and saw thousands of candles memorializing the deaths of loved ones. Ortega felt compelled to do the same for her close friend, “campus celebrity” Adam Levine.
“Not only was the anniversary of his passing coming up, but I felt like it was symbolic of him,” Ortega said. “Adam had a huge light that was noticeable from a mile away, and I wanted to do a little something that would let his light keep shining for others to see.”
Levine was considered the type of person who could have been anyone’s best friend.
Levine was a prominent member in numerous organizations, notably Student Government (SG) in the freshman liaison council and Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) fraternity where members would find it difficult not to know who he was. A vibrant personality who loved to joke and go out, he would capture people’s attention with his signature introduction: “My name is Adam Levine, like the singer in Maroon 5, but better.”
Campus was distraught when Levine died of a drug overdose in the early morning of March 20, 2016, right after attending Ultra Music Festival, according to a toxicology report from the medical examiner’s office. More than 500 people attended the candlelight vigil and memorial organized by student affairs and Hillel, respectively.
A year after his death, Levine’s close friends said they still find it tough to accept that he’s gone, especially since he was “the loudest but happiest person” they knew. Ortega said that the weeks after Levine’s death were “surreal” and difficult, but she tries to stay positive for Levine and the great times they shared.
“I remember always hearing his laugh whenever I thought about him and at the time, it made me want to cry,” Ortega said. “Now when I hear his laugh, I get a smile on my face. It’s not that it gets easier losing someone, but you think about it different. You remember the better times.”
Senior Marc Szasz, one of Levine’s fraternity brothers, said that it was hard moving on, but he pointed to a statement he made in Levine’s memorial.
“I thought to myself, ‘What would Adam say?’” Szasz said last year. “Honestly, he would tell me to stop being a bitch and suck it up.”
Szasz said that Levine’s absence hit him when he returned for his senior year. He said he was surprised by how many of his daily activities and observations reminded him of Levine.
One of these moments was during the 2017 SG elections.
“It was weird not seeing him on some sort of ticket or running around campus rooting for his ticket,” Szasz said. “It was weird – he was very involved and I never processed it before that.”
Harry Kroll, Levine’s roommate and fraternity brother in the AEPi house, fondly remembers Levine’s “larger-than-life” personality.
“It feels weird that it’s been a whole year,” Kroll said. “The way Adam’s personality was – it was so vivid – I can remember him like he was around yesterday … All of his close friends and me still talk about him, he is still a part of our lives in memory, and we make conscious effort to make sure that’s the case.”
On Jan. 3, what would have been Levine’s 22nd birthday, his Facebook wall was showered with messages. Close friends privately sent each other uplifting messages, retelling stories of Levine. The display of love and support was a reflection of the role Levine played on campus: connector. At his memorial, dozens raised their hands when asked if Levine had introduced them to someone they came to cherish.
Kroll credited his strong relationships with his close friends to Levine.
“When friends of his and I are hanging out and having a good time, the atmosphere of being together happily will remind us of Adam because he was the reason I am friends with many people,” Kroll said. “In that way he brings happiness into our lives.”
The following weeks after Levine’s death, Kroll could not go back to the room they shared out of fear that it would “set [him] off randomly.” Hillel let Kroll stay in a room inside their building, typically reserved for speakers or traveling Rabbis, for as long as he needed. After a week and a half, Kroll returned to his room to gather Levine’s items and spread them to close friends.
“It was emotional going back; seeing all of his stuff, it felt surreal,” Kroll said. “It almost felt that I had gone into a time machine, and I expected him to walk through the door any time … Returning was also nice, too, because I had so many happy memories in that room with him, so it was good to return when I felt ready to do it.”
Both Kroll and Szasz kept mementos belonging to Levine. Kroll kept Levine’s AEPi sweatshirt, which Levine wore frequently when they were roommates, and “awful Crocs that were unmistakably his.” Szasz kept Levine’s medal and race number from the time they completed the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, where they cycled more than 14 miles together.
“This past year, it’s weird not seeing him there but having his medal is great, he was passionate about raising money for cancer,” Szasz said. “And having the memento, a shared passion is something I will cherish forever.”