SDSU community remembers a ‘spectacular’ student


Assaf “Sam” Alharbi will be remembered by those who knew him best by his bright spirit and loving smile.

Alharbi, a 23-year-old international student from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, drowned July 9 in Mound Creek, south of Sanborn, Minnesota.

There will be a memorial service for Alharbi on Sunday, August 21 at 7 p.m. on the SDSU Campus, but the exact location has not been determined.

“He was one of those memorable students that you have as a teacher that you never forget,” said Nathan Ziegler, director of English as a second language.

Alharbi was a student of Ziegler’s in a writing course two years ago, but the student made a lasting impression on Ziegler.

Ziegler was shocked to read of Alharbi’s death through an email sent to all faculty and staff.

While Ziegler knew Alharbi, a medical laboratory science major, on a professional basis, he saw Alharbi’s ability to connect with a variety of people and his attentiveness.

“I hope that he will be remembered as a true friend and community member for this university,” Ziegler said.

Greg Wymer, director of international students, sent the email that Ziegler and other  faculty, staff and international students received regarding Alharbi’s death on Monday, July 11. It was important for Wymer that the SDSU community was informed about Alharbi.

“He was a super person and a spectacular person. He will be missed,” Wymer said. “We encouraged our international students to be safe.”

The sheriff in the Brown County where the incident took place, Rich Hoffmann, said Alharbi and several friends were swimming in a popular creek. The group of friends was swimming to an outcropping of rocks when Alharbi went under the water and didn’t resurface.

The Brown County police department received the call of a possible drowning at 2:38 p.m. July 9 and arrived at the scene at 3 p.m. Alharbi’s body was found shortly after 4 p.m.

“It’s pretty unfortunate,” said Hoffmann about the drowning. “There were efforts to save him, but they were unable to.”

Hoffmann said Alharbi had been drinking alcohol, but the Sheriff doesn’t believe that was a factor in the student’s death.

Following the event, Doug Wermedal, interim vice president of student affairs, and other administrators will continue to look for individuals that are impacted by the death and try to assist.

The counseling center at the Wellness Center is informed of the incident and individuals are encouraged to use the services available to them.

“I hope all students, not just students, everyone, understands how fragile life can be,” Wermedal said, “and what a treasure each day is and to pass through life with that sensitivity toward each other.”