Tech Community Mourns The Loss Of A Student

SOCORRO, N.M. May 5, 2015 – The New Mexico Tech community is grieving the loss of a student over the weekend. Bryce McKenzie, a senior in the Physics Department, died late Friday night or Saturday morning in Socorro.  


Bryce McKenzie


McKenzie, who was from Las Cruces, had finished his degree requirements for his bachelor’s in physics. Born July 5, 1988, he was 26 years old. His parents will attend the commencement ceremony on Saturday to receive his degree. 

According to law enforcement reports and the family, Mr. McKenzie died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms and having a “bad trip.” Family members said Bryce’s actions were not consistent with his character and personality and that his judgment and reasoning must have been impaired by the illicit substance. 

University President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez expressed sorrow on behalf of the institution. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bryce’s family and friends for their tragic loss. By all accounts, Bryce was an excellent student and his professors and fellow students all spoke highly of him. We, as a Tech community, feel a deep sense of loss over the sudden death of one of our own students. It is always difficult to lose a young person. It is even more difficult when it is one of our own tightly-knit Tech community. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family, his friends and to all who knew him.”

Bryce was born July 5, 1988, in St. Louis, Missouri at St. John's Mercy Medical Center where a great aunt served as a Sister of Mercy. Visits by his aunt and many fellow nuns made him the hospital's most popular newborn. These nuns included many of the hospital's senior executives, and Bryce received outstanding care.

Bryce had a wonderful, sometimes obnoxious and dirty sense of humor, and took particular joy in sharing it with the unsuspecting. He was painfully shy. Most people would never believe it since, after years of moving and being forced to meet new people, he learned how to interact. He had a talent for drawing people out of their shell and defending those who needed it.

Bryce aimed to use his education to support himself and a future family. Despite his grand beginning at St. John's and many material blessings, Bryce loved and lived a simple, frugal life. He enjoyed computer games, time with friends and family, disassembling and reassembling almost anything, travel – especially to Japan, and was an exceptional marksman.

Bryce is survived by his parents Shawn and Valerie McKenzie of Las Cruces, his sister Chesney and brother-in-law Caleb Ramsey of Dallas, his grandparents Al and Carmen McKenzie, and Bud and Bev Coons of Las Cruces, and many loving uncles, aunts and cousins in Las Cruces and elsewhere. All are devastated and confused that such a thoughtful young man, who loved them and their Lord Jesus Christ, took his own life when his future was so bright.

Professor Dr. Richard Sonnenfeld said McKenzie was serious about his studies and enthusiastic about being a physicist. 

“Bryce was a serious student,” Sonnenfeld said. “He really loved physics, and he liked to laugh. I got to know him better in the laboratory class. He frequently stated that he was at sea with the physics concepts, but his lab reports showed thorough and careful work. I saw Bryce at his most genuine in the final weeks of the course. He worked with some other students on free-choice projects such as studies of superconductivity and rehabilitating an old infrared camera. He got so involved in exploring these projects that he sometimes forgot to write down data. This was because, as he said, ‘The whole point of physics is to play with the apparatus.’ As someone who has spent 30 years as an experimental physicist, I would say that Bryce had it just about right. I spoke with him a day or so before he passed and he was jubilant to be graduating.”

Bryce's memorial service is scheduled for at 10:30 a.m. Friday, May 8, at University Presbyterian Church, 2010 Wisconsin Ave., Las Cruces, NM 88001 and will be followed by a lunch reception. The service will be officiated by Senior Pastor Patrick Tebbano and close family friend, retired pastor Lyle Lionbarger. Getz Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

– NMT –