MANHATTAN — A beloved New School security guard known as much for his welcoming smile as his athletic build, died suddenly on Tuesday, officials said, sparking an outpouring of grief in the university community.
William Gary, 46, died in Brooklyn's Methodist Hospital after treatment for damage to vertebrae in his neck — a herniated cervical disk — resulted in complications, according to the school and the city's office of the medical examiner.
Gary, who friends said injured himself while lifting weights, was remembered as a proud father to a young son, an animal lover and a fitness buff.
"Will absolutely loved his time at The New School, cherished interactions with students, and greeted everyone who entered the building with warmth and an infectious smile," the university said in a statement.
Gary began working at The New School about 2002, the statement continued. Prior to that, he was also in the first Gulf War during his eight-year service in the Army, the school said.
At the university, he endeared himself to students who passed by his usual post at the circular wood desk in the lobby of 66 West 12th St., near Sixth Avenue.
"Every time I would stop to visit with him, Will would somehow manage to give me his full attention and simultaneously greet everyone like we were all walking in to some great party," said New School alumnus Katherine Delgado, 25.
Gary immediately welcomed Sarah Hinton, now 25, when she transferred to The New School from UMass Boston in 2008.
"Will was one of my first friends on campus and in the city," Hinton said. "He also was so kind and we both were outgoing. He introduced me to everyone and anyone."
"He was a great dad and every other sentence he spoke about his son, and when I became a mother myself and tried to remain on campus and in class, he was so amazing at helping to make being a pregnant student as easy as it could be," Hinton said.
"He was really proud of his son. He would always talk about how big his kid was getting and just being a dad," said Peter Milo, 36, who used to bring the beloved guard video games to pass along to his boy.
Gary's friendships with students extended beyond school grounds. Hinton continued talking to him even after leaving school. And when Gary realized Delgado had moved near to him in Flatbush, he introduced her to other New Schoolers from the neighborhood.
"He introduced me to everyone trickling into the lobby who also lived in my new corner of Brooklyn. He knew I was having a hard time and just wanted to make it a little better," she said.
"The New School community has lost a giant of a man who guarded and guided us though the day," the university said in a statement. "He will always be remembered as the kind-hearted campus safety officer who made this campus a safer and friendlier place."