The Ryan Bost Memorial Gymnasium (Photo by Heidi Randhava)

Ryan Bost was known as a reserved young man of few words.

“And when he spoke, everyone listened,” said Robert Reece, one of nine speakers at the dedication of the Ryan Bost Memorial Gymnasium at Washington Elementary School on June 13.

A 2019 graduate of Evanston Township High School, Ryan was well known in the Evanston community and beyond as a basketball star who was a leader on and off the court, always putting others before himself.

His life was cut short at the age of 20, when he was fatally shot on Nov. 9, 2020, in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Mr. Reece, a volunteer for 40-plus years in the Fellowship of Afro-American Men (FAAM) Youth Basketball League, said the naming of the Washington School gym was something that had never been done before.

Robert Reece gave a touching tribute to Ryan Bost. (Photo by Heidi Randhava)

“I want to thank District 65 and the leadership team here at Washington School on the dedication of this gym in honor of Ryan Bost,” said Mr. Reece, who was a classmate and teammate of Ryan’s late grandfather, Robert (Bob) Bost, Sr.

Robert (Bob) Bost, Sr. served as a longtime ETHS basketball and baseball coach and assistant principal at Haven Middle School until shortly before his death in 2012. The annual boys and girls basketball double-header between New Trier High School and ETHS is named the Bob Bost Classic in his honor.

“Ryan’s grandfather was well known to the Evanston community. And I can say that Ryan’s grandfather’s legacy is second to none – until this evening. … As we’re gathered here to celebrate and honor the legacy of another Bost, Ryan Bost, the Bost family legacy continues,” said Mr. Reece.

Ryan was a third-generation Evanston basketball standout, following his father, Robert (Bobby) Bost, and his late grandfather. Ryan’s younger brother, Rashawn, is a rising senior on the ETHS varsity basketball team. Rashawn Bost now wears Ryan’s jersey #24.

Schawanda Bost, left, and Katharine Ellison, Ryan’s principal at Washington Elementary School. (Photo by Heidi Randhava)

Katharine Ellison was the principal at Washington Elementary School when Ryan was a student there, excelling at both athletics and academics. Ms. Ellison shared her memory of a time when Ryan assured her that he could handle the conflicts that were arising among students who played football on the playground during recess.

“I don’t know that I was so optimistic about it, but sure enough, the next day, football was fine. Ryan figured it out. He really worked some magic. His quiet, strong leadership in fourth or fifth grade – he was able to be a role model and talk to his peers, his classmates, his friends – in a way that truly solved the problem.

“Yes, this gym is a physical legacy to Ryan. However, I think the most important legacy he leaves with us is in us. It’s that legacy of all the things he has taught us to help us become better people, to be better educators, to be better family members. His legacy lives within each of us,” said Ms. Ellison.

Jason Davis coached Ryan Bost on Illinois Future, an AAU basketball team for ages 7 through 14.

“I was blessed to coach Ryan when he first started AAU. We started him at the age of 8. And from an early age, Ryan was a heck of a leader. We took 8-, 9-, and 10 year-olds to compete against some of the best teams in the country and finished in the highest third. We all called Ryan ‘Mr. And-1’ because every time he went to the basket, there was an ‘and one.’ Hopefully, many kids will follow his footsteps playing in this gym,” said Mr. Davis.

Kristin Alexander was one of Ryan’s Washington School fourth- and fifth-grade basketball and flag football coaches.

“Ryan was an incredible athlete. … But what I loved most about him is that he was just an incredible team player. It’s one thing to be a good team player when you’re playing at ETHS with other really good athletes, but it’s another when you’re in fourth grade, and you’re the only one on your team that ever played organized basketball. … He was the kind of quiet, humble leader who brought out the best in every single one of those kids,” said Ms. Alexander.

Many of those who attended the Ryan Bost Memorial Gym dedication wrote a personal message to the Bost family in a memorial guest book. (Photo by Heidi Randhava)

During his high school years, Ryan was invited to be a member of Beyond Sports Foundation, based on recommendations by supporters including Greg Taylor, the foundation’s director of Athletic Development & College Support.

“Through Beyond Sports Foundation, I was able to get to know Ryan on Sundays at 7 a.m. … He’d get up and work out … and then go and get some academic support from 9 to 11 a.m. – ACT prep and all that kind of stuff,” Mr. Taylor said, adding that Ryan was committed to community service, working as a counselor at the Evanston Eat Play Learn sports and enrichment summer program and volunteering at the McGaw YMCA.

He said he remembered traveling to a University of Michigan basketball camp, where Ryan was “one of the smaller players in the camp.

“There were definitely some big, strong kids there, like Michigan recruits. … Ryan won the one-on-one contest amongst 100 kids, and that was a testament to Ryan’s heart, and Ryan’s determination and his belief in himself.

“Dedicating this gym in his name is very fitting, because… he brought people together, whether that was intentionally or naturally,” said Mr. Taylor.

Ryan’s high school counselor, Susan Spillane, reflected on the impact that Ryan had on his peers, teammates, teachers, coaches and staff during his four years at ETHS.

Addressing Ryan, Ms. Spillane said, “Your love of life, your shy smile, your exuberant but contained excitement at winning, at leading …”

Ryan’s wonderful spirit shined, Ms. Spillane said, not only when winning, but even at losing.

“On behalf of the ETHS basketball family,” Varsity Basketball Coach Mike Ellis thanked District 65, Washington School and the Bost family for “inviting us to take part in this ceremony.

“As a teacher and coach, you get into that business because you want to help kids. … What you don’t realize is, sometimes there are kids that help you. And that’s who Ryan was.

“Just by observing him and seeing how much he cared about others first. That’s the one thing that always stands out to me about him. He would always think about you, others, his brothers, sisters … everyone else. He would put them before himself all the time. And it was just so special to watch, because you could see the impact that he was having on a daily basis.

“We have some of the most competitive practices. Winning means a lot to us. … It was a thrill to watch Ryan come in and see teammates arguing emotionally, when they weren’t playing up their abilities. Just to see the calmness he had over everyone, to witness him leading by example. … It was a joy to watch, I’ll be honest with you.

“To see this gymnasium at Washington now bear his honor and be able to tell stories of Ryan Bost to these upcoming grade school students in Evanston – it means a great deal,” said Coach Ellis.

A three-year starting guard at ETHS, Ryan helped lead the ETHS Wildkits in back-to-back runs for the Illinois High School Association basketball State championship. The team brought home a second-place State trophy in 2019 and earned a third-place finish in 2018. He and teammates Jaheim Holden and Lance Jones set an all-time school record of 110 wins over four years.

Ryan’s fifth grade teacher, Christie Kersnar, said she spoke on behalf of all the teachers and staff at Washington School. Addressing Ryan’s parents, Bobby and Schawanda Bost, and his brothers, Robert (BJ) and Rashawn Bost, Ms. Kersnar said, “We want you to know that Ryan will always and forever be remembered.”

Ms. Kersnar led more than 100 of Ryan’s teachers, coaches, friends, teammates, family members and community members in reciting the dedication of what is now the Ryan Bost Memorial Gymnasium.

“We dedicate this gym to Ryan Bost.
So that his life and memory will live on always.
Bringing strength and love to all who enter here.
Bringing goodness, connection and hope
to the Evanston community in which Ryan was born and raised.
And bringing inspiration and guidance
To all future students who will learn, grow and play here.”

After the dedication ceremony, guests socialized and shared their own stories and memories of Ryan. Displayed on a memorial guest book table were photos of Ryan leading the Wildkits defensively on the basketball court, running the ball down the football field, and smiling on the pool deck. Guests were invited to write a message or memory to share with the Bost family.

Among those who attended the dedication in support of the Bost family was activist Justin Blake. Gun violence left his nephew, Evanston native Jacob Blake, partly paralyzed at age 29 after a police officer shot him seven times in the back outside an apartment complex in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 23, 2020. Both Bost and Blake families have a long history of community service in Evanston.

“This was an all-out, awesome event … for a young man with a history of hard work, inclusion and education – just an all-around great young man. …The Blake family was glad to be here to celebrate his life, and let people know some good things are happening in our neighborhood and some great young men have come out of Evanston,” said Mr. Blake.

Ryan’s indomitable spirit was captured in an original poem by ETHS teacher Deshana Newman, which she recited at the gymnasium dedication ceremony. It is printed below, with her permission:

by Deshana Newman

Mother, Father, Brothers
Family created with love
Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins
Unconditional love, constant consistent support
Laughter, hugs, smiles shared between all
Joyful celebrations together and traditions made
Memories made through the years
Swish, Score, Smile
Joy and happiness on the court
Coaches and teammates, a basketball bond
A brotherhood united by the love of the game
Chants and cheers for victory
Fans excited for a win
The heart-beat of his team
Brothers, homies, friend girls, his crew
Grew up together in ETOWN
Fun, giggles, happiness childhood joy
Kickin’ it with his people
Loyalty, support and encouragement for each other
Unbreakable bonds of friendship
Joyful spirit
Listening carefully
Radiant light
Unique smile
Always observing
Loveable person
Kind soul

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.