Conner Budge smiles for the camera while driving a boat. Conner died Sept. 24, and was a senior studying Creative Writing at Seaver College. Photo courtesy of Conner Budge Memorial’s Instagram
An optimist and a student with the biggest smile — this was Conner Budge. Conner died unexpectedly Sept. 24, and members of the Pepperdine community shared memories of him as they mourn his loss.
Conner was a senior at Seaver College studying Creative Writing, and he was expected to graduate in spring 2023. The Hub for Spiritual Life hosted a memorial at Elkins Auditorium on campus Oct. 8, to celebrate and honor Conner’s life.
“He was a caring soul, a creative spirit, a gentle person who loved people, and who is loved and returned by many,” Conner’s father Michael Budge said.
The Hub also hosted a time for community members to remember Conner Sept. 27 at Stauffer Chapel.
Conner grew up in North Hollywood with his brother Ian and his parents — Michael and Karen. Ian said he looked up to his brother and wanted to be just like him.
“He was always there for me [Ian] for any activity or problem,” Michael said, while reading a statement on behalf of Ian at the memorial. “His advice is precious and I [Ian] loved how much he cared for me [Ian]. He was the best man I’ve [Ian’s] ever known.”
“He always lit up the room and made conversations more enjoyable,” senior Jacob Seals said. “It seemed that Conner lived life freely. He always had a very positive outlook on all situations.”
Seals said he met Conner in their first-year housing at Fifield. The two went on to join Sig Ep together their first year at Pepperdine.
“He really was a great person,” Seals said. “I enjoyed spending so much time with him. He definitely made a huge impact on my life. And being around him made me aspire to be a better man and a better friend.”
Seals said every conversation with Conner was enjoyable, and he always noticed Conner living life with an optimistic spirit.
“It became very apparent how charismatic he was,” Seals said. “His personality was truly something that I admired.”
Senior Matthew Harvill, Conner’s friend and roommate at Drescher, said he knew Conner since their first-year Italian class, but they grew a deeper relationship this year.
The class was over Zoom in spring 2020, and Harvill said Conner would email him after class to go over lessons. Conner was easy to talk to over Zoom, and when on campus, would always take the time to say “Hi.”
Harvill said Conner was a listener — always putting hours of his day aside to simply listen to his friends and family.
“He was an amazing listener,” Harville said. “No matter what we as roommates were going through or what Conner was going through himself — he always made time to listen and to talk to his roommates and even more his friends.”
Harvill said one memory that stood out to him was when Conner shared advice and told life stories to both Harville and their other roommate one night in Drescher. He said their Residential Advisor, junior Courtney Wisniewski, was over that night, and everyone in the room noticed Conner’s joy and light.
“Conner could always bring joy to the room and I think it was part of his purpose,” Harville said.
Wisniewski said she first met Conner during move-in day at Drescher this semester. She said he was immediately welcoming to her and wanted to be her friend, rather than just her resident.
“The way that he spoke to everyone was just so amazing,” Wisniewski said.”He spoke to everyone like they were his best friend.”
Conner was always smiling and finding the silver lining of any situation. He turned any bad situation into something good, Wisniewski said.
“He was so smiley — like always smiling about something,” Wisniewski said. “ He never failed to make anything, even if it’s negative, a positive thing.”
Conner loved food, Harvill said, making frequent late-night trips to the HAWC and one night the two made grilled PB & J’s together.
Conner also loved “Game of Thrones,” Harvill said, and loved traditions with his roommates — like watching “House of the Dragon” together every Sunday.
“Conner loved film, TV and especially cartoons,” Harvill said. “Every night there was always almost something on the TV that we all watched together. And we would laugh or think deeply depending on what we were watching.”
The tradition began on the first night the two roomed together, Harvill said. Conner invited him to his room and offered him a pillow to lean on. Conner kept his room neat, with hanging lights and a row of hats he liked to wear lined up.
Harvill said he made Conner watch Westworld, and Conner would make comments and predictions on what would happen next — he was usually right.
“No plot twists for him,” Harvill said.
English Professor Lisa Smith said she had Conner in her creative writing class last spring. The class was filled with deep conversation, laughter and good-natured teasing of Conner, who completed the class entirely on his phone. Smith said he didn’t use a notebook or a laptop — simply just his phone to do all of his assignments.
“I was really quite impressed with his device dexterity,” Smith said.
Smith said if she had one word to describe Conner, it would be gentle.
“Conner seemed to me to be the kind of person with whom others felt comfortable with — they felt seen and felt supported and believed in and that’s saying something these days when there’s so much judgment and polarization and division,” Smith said. “Conner felt safe.”
Michael Marrone, a friend of Conner’s since the third grade, shared his memories with Conner. Marrone said he and Conner became fast friends and bonded over a shared love of food.
“Over the past 13 years, Conner wasn’t just someone I knew,” Marrone said. “He was a business partner. He was a friend. He was a brother. He was someone I could rely on for the rest of my life.”
Being friends with Conner taught Marrone to stick up for himself, he said, as Conner was the type of person to “go to war” for a friend. Conner was someone who took risks, Marrone said.
“In middle school, he was always on top of a presidential award, and I couldn’t even touch my toes,” Marrone said. “He’s motivated — it’s motivating to see just what he would do throughout the years.”
Marrone said he was creative, had a good sense of humor and had an adventurous spirit — all traits Marrone said he will remember forever. Marrone said he saw Conner this past summer, and he was happy to see Conner was doing what he loved.
“He was finding himself and finding who the right people were, knowing where he wanted to go in life, and I’m just glad that he was in the right place,” Marrone said.
Conner leaves a legacy as always being a light, especially in Harvill’s life, he said, and the lives of others.
“I believe his purpose was fulfilled by showing us all how to be better people,” Harvill said.
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