Abington student murdered days before donning his cap and gown

Mohan Varughese, 23, was senselessly murdered on Monday evening, May 9 in Philadelphia -- just four days shy of receiving his bachelor's degree from Penn State Abington. While visiting his girlfriend, a student at Temple University, Varughese was shot three times by an assailant intent on stealing his bright red Kawasaki motorcycle. His devastated family has gone from planning a graduation party to planning a funeral.

On Friday, May 13, Varughese’s bachelor of science degree in psychological and social sciences from Penn State Abington was presented to two of his brothers -- Manu and Matthew -- during commencement exercises. A moment of silence and a heartfelt tribute to Mohan also was provided by Michael Bernstein, professor of psychology and Varughese’s thesis adviser. In a recent interview, Bernstein described Varughese as a very dedicated and hard-working student.

“Mohan was a very mature and enthusiastic student. It was important to him to do well. He got a perfect GPA (4.0) his last semester," Bernstein said. "He always worked diligently. His classmates told me that he was ‘insightful’ and ‘fun to work with.’ I enjoyed having him in class."

After doing extensive research for his thesis titled, "The Effects of Mortality Salience on Self-esteem," Varughese concluded that there was a positive link between mortality salience (thinking of one’s own death) and high self-esteem. According to Varughese, higher self-esteem occurs because the shear act of thinking about dying makes a person reappraise what’s important in life, such as friends and family.

His friends -- George Mejia, a criminal justice major who will be a senior next year at Penn State Abington, and Jason Shields, a seventh term corporate communications student -- fondly remembered Varughese as “someone you want to be around,” and as an individual who was “very caring and loving…a big teddy bear.”

Mejia, his voice breaking, told of how fun it was to “hang around” with Varughese. “We were like the UN…our group of friends was so diverse, said Mejia. "He was well liked and fun. He was a determined student and encouraged me with my studies. He was happy to graduate; everything was going great for him. I just wish I could see him again.”

“Our community is deeply saddened by the passing of one of our students, Mohan Varughese,” said Karen Wiley Sandler, Penn State Abington’s chancellor, in a statement. “This news is particularly heartbreaking as we prepare this week for commencement exercises on Friday in which Mohan was planning to participate. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Varughese family as they mourn this tragic loss.”

Mohan Varughese--Feb. 5, 1988 – May 9, 2011