About Rob

Rob’s brother and sister, John and Katie Koranda, read this montage.




By Katherine Koranda, 2003

Even as a young child, Rob appreciated the natural beauty in the world. On several family vacations, when we were standing near Niagara Falls, on the top of Snowmass Mountain watching the sunset, and at Lake Geneva staring at the moon’s white flow on the still water, Rob would murmur, “it is so beautiful.” Like the sun casting its light onto the moon and being reflected into our world, Rob casts his light on us.

Growing up in Naperville, IL, Rob Koranda was surrounded by family, friends, and a community as strong as the Midwestern land it was developed upon. In school, Rob charmed his teachers with his right dimpled cheek, fun nature, hard work, and his strong desire to achieve. He graduated as a National Merit Scholar from Naperville North High School in 1998 and went on to Princeton University majoring in history. With a broken arm from a rugby match, he wrote his senor thesis on the life of James Madison.

On the athletic field, Rob’s speed and strength matched his game strategy. As a sophomore, he recognized that he was not the fastest linebacker on the team. Rob ran wind sprints after practice until he could run the quickest 40-yard dash on the defensive line. I remember looking through my mom’s zoom lenses at Rob’s face in a huddle. His brow was crinkled, his eyes moving from teammate to teammate’s face as he drew the play on his hand. Rob was a natural athlete, but his problem-solving skills won his achievements on the football field and rugby pitch. After a Friday night under the football lights, Rob, John and our dad would sit in the family room with the lights off and watch the game tape. Play-by-play, offense-to-defense-to-offense-to-defense, they would compliment and critique the night’s game.

In high school, John and I named Rob’s group of friends 90210. The name 90201 was earned because they were always together. For their junior yearbook pictures, Rob and Greg came up with the idea for all of the guys to wear the same geeky shirt and Rob’s old glasses to look like nerds. Ever scheming for new ideas to stump their mothers, 90210 went to far extremes to be allowed to hang out. Their most desperate attempt was when Greg and Rob sent letters to all of 90210’s mothers inviting their children on a church retreat. Much to Greg and Rob’s surprise, the mothers were a bit perplexed that their children would want to spend a weekend at a church retreat and not with their friends. Thus, their plan was uncovered.

John and I still laugh about 90210. In the days after Rob’s funeral, I looked at their high school graduation picture and wished that perfect day back. Rob began Princeton University in the fall of 1998 and again had a very strong group of friends. Perhaps John and I would have nicknamed them had we spent more time with them. In college, Rob’s group of friends were Princetonians from his dorm, his fraternity, his football and rugby teams, and his eating club. They were all in one group and hung out together all of the time. Coincidence that Rob would find another true group of friends in college after leaving behind 90210, I know now it was nothing of the sort. In both high school and college, Rob made those groups. Not meaning to, but by simply wanting to be able to hang out with as many friends as possible at one time.

Rob was a uniter. He united his friends, and he united John and me from a family of three into a brotherhood of one. Teachers, coaches, teammates, friends, and our family were attracted to Rob’s love. He loved people. We wanted to spend time with him. He was excellent at just hanging out discussing history with my dad and grandpa, talking about girlfriends with my mom and me, and goofing around with john and his friends. Rob loved late night talks, listening for valid opposing viewpoints, and giving advice after knowing the entire scenario.

With great pleasure, our family will continue to share Rob with the world. His passion for people, life, and challenges should not be forgotten or put aside in our grief for they are what inspire us to go on and live positively. They are what inspire us to continue to wake up each morning, love each other, and chase our dreams. We are sad to lose our brother, son, and friend, but maybe we are not as unfortunate as those whose life paths crossed with Rob’s. By establishing the Rob Koranda Scholarship Foundation, we share Rob’s spirit and zest with today’s aspiring young men and women.

After his college roommate, Billy, lost two close friends on September 11, Rob consoled him by saying, “That is why we live life the way we do.” The way Rob lived his life will always be cast upon us, lighting our way to love others and chase dreams, so that when the time has come, we too can say, “it is so beautiful.”


The world is less without your breath

No one knows why it was your time to leave

But keep me strong as I grieve

Your heart beat within my own

Because of you I have prove

Within our hearts you will love on

Smile on Brother. Smile on.

-John Koranda