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Volume 5, Issue 2                                    University of Houston

Williams Tower climber was member 
of UH community

By Ed De La Garza
Breaking News

The scene had onlookers glued to Williams Tower and made the front page of newspapers across the country, but a climber’s attempt to scale the building hit the University a little closer to home. Ryan Hartley, 20, died Monday when he let go while climbing the 900-foot building in the Galleria area after reaching the 26th floor. Hartley was a sophomore philosophy major at UH.

"He had mentioned to his rock climbing friends that ‘Yeah, I could climb that building,’" Hartley family spokesman Chris Seay said. "Nobody actually thought he would do it. Nobody had any details he was planning to do it."

Seay is a reverend at Ecclesia Church, of which Hartley was a member.

The Harris County medical examiner’s office ruled his death a suicide Monday, and onlookers stated he had pushed off from the building, but Hartley’s family was certain he intended to complete the climb.

"We do firmly believe he had every intention of climbing the building," Seay said. "He didn’t climb up so that he could fall. Some things happened, I think, that made it clear he couldn’t make it, and he couldn’t hold on forever. He let go."

In lieu of flowers, Hartley’s family has suggested people send donations to any of the three following organizations: NAMI Houston, P.O. Box 271266, Houston, TX 77277; Second Baptist School Foundation, 6410 Woodway, Houston TX 77057; and Bellaire Christian Academy, 4601 Bellaire Blvd., Bellaire, TX 77401.

According to its Web site at, the "National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is a nonprofit, grassroots, self-help, support and advocacy organization of consumers, families and friends of people with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorders." Hartley had a psychological disorder.

"In the middle of stress, part of what he loved was climbing, and he just decided to do it," Seay said.

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