scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Fraternity brothers step up to honor Ryan Shaw

Ryan Shaw (center) with his Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers after his initiation in the spring of 2016, shortly before his death.

Ryan Shaw’s older brother, Connor, still cherishes a video featuring the pair working out together: Connor lifting weights, and Ryan riding a skateboard on a treadmill.

“The 5K itself is pretty ironic, because Ryan was never really a runner,” Connor, 23, said about the charity 5 kilometer run to honor his brother, who died of bacterial meningitis last May at age 18.

Ryan Shaw jet-skiing at Bass River in West Dennis in the summer of 2015.

But when Josh Mader, a family friend, approached him about setting up the Ryan Shaw Memorial 5K Run, Connor agreed that organizing a community event to raise money for one of Ryan’s favorite charities would serve as a fitting tribute to his brother’s entrepreneurial spirit.


The race will be held Saturday, April 8, at Artesani Park, 1255 Soldiers Field Road, in Boston. Registration is at 10:45 a.m., with the race — for runners, joggers, and walkers — at noon.

Shaw’s sudden, random death shook his family and friends to the core.

Shaw, of Wakefield, had just completed his freshman year at Northeastern University, where he was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha chapter that Mader, 23, now serves as president.

While attending St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers, Ryan participated in the Babson Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy, a program that allows teams to create and pitch startups, said David Hennessey, a St. John’s economics teacher and lead instructor of the program. It has since been renamed the Ryan Shaw ’15 Entrepreneurial Education Program.

After nixing the first idea Ryan and two teammates proposed, they came up with a concept for what would become Equity Owl, a company Ryan launched with teammate Mitchell Trulli, which Trulli still runs.

“Ryan was the energy and the enthusiasm of ‘Hey, let’s run with this,’” Hennessey said. “It really brought out his energy, his creativity, his willingness to see a project through to its fruition.”


The business focuses on connecting entrepreneurs flush with ideas but short on cash with experts willing to provide their services for a stake in a venture, rather than cash upfront, Trulli said.

At the end of the program, their team won St. John’s “Shark Tank” style pitch competition, and came in fourth place at Babson’s larger contest.

“Most people are afraid of taking that leap from ‘Oh I have a great idea,’ to, ‘OK now I’m putting myself out there,’” Trulli said. “Ryan was always the one in there sort of mixing in with people.”

By the time he entered his freshman year at Northeastern in 2015, Ryan shared ownership of the startup, and won the Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards gold key in painting.

Ryan’s death felt surreal for Mader.

“It literally came from him throwing up on a Friday . . . to us finding out he died on Sunday,” said Mader, a lifelong family friend who also grew up in Wakefield. “It wasn’t like cancer, where he had it for a long time . . . he had it for two days.”

Mader and members of Pi Kappa Alpha at Northeastern organized the Ryan Shaw Memorial 5K, which will benefit Mustard Seed Communities, a nonprofit dedicated to the care of children with serious physical and mental disabilities in Jamaica. Ryan had worked with the program on a service trip he took there.

To register (by April 4) or to donate, go to The cost is $30 per participant.


In addition to raising money for charity, bringing together people across several different communities for a group activity in memory of Ryan serves as catharsis for Connor Shaw.

“It’s hard every day,” he said. “I think the easiest days are the ones that are dedicated to Ryan.”

Sean Teehan can be reached at