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In Memoriam: Samuel Arnone-Roller (2002-2023)

August 23, 2023

Headshot Samuel Roller

It is with profound sadness that we share the news that one of our students, Samuel Arnone-Roller, who graduated with a master’s degree in Middle East Studies in June 2023, passed away August 21, 2023 following a short illness.

“Samuel was an extraordinary young scholar and inspiring human being,” said Jackson School Director Daniel Hoffman. “We are proud and grateful that Samuel was willing to share his passion and curiosity with us as a member of the Jackson School community.”

After graduating from the University of Washington with a B.A. in Political Science and minors in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations and International Studies, Samuel received his M.A. in Middle East Studies from the Jackson School in June 2023. His thesis, The Damascus Spring and the Question of Failure dealt with how the uprisings that took place in 2000 in Syria affected the recent revolution and civil war.

Professor Reşat Kasaba, who supervised his M.A. thesis said, “Samuel had a deep commitment to do all he could to understand and explain the historical roots of the Syrian uprising. His thesis was 100-pages and included eight pages of bibliography of original and secondary sources in three languages. It is testimony to the quality of his work that he has already received inquiries about publishing part of his thesis. He is one of the very best students I have had the pleasure of working with.”

Samuel received a University of Washington David Bonderman Fellowship that would’ve taken him to eight countries of his choosing – Paraguay, Bolivia, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, Nepal and the Philippines – in 2023-2024 academic year. He was one of only eight UW students selected for the annual overseas travel award. Upon graduation Samuel went to Jordan to improve his Arabic. He was planning to return to Seattle in the Fall and start his Bonderman Fellowship. Sadly, his plans were cut short when he became ill.

“He was so excited about the Bonderman and he had so much promise,” said Kasaba. “He was a wonderful, funny, exceptionally intelligent person. The news of his passing is devastating.”

Samuel had a passion for learning about other cultures, and to “write in solidarity with the Syrian Revolution,” he said in a recent Q&A with the Jackson School about being awarded the Bonderman.

“I would emphasize that my time in the Jackson School taught me to push my limits; not necessarily through feats of endurance, but also through expanding the limits of what I can do with the material available to me and where I know to look for more.”

Samuel already looked for more. Jackson School Graduate Adviser Jesús Hidalgo said Samuel reached out to him even before his first quarter at the UW with several questions and a spreadsheet of potential classes and faculty advisors, because he wanted to be prepared in advance.

“In each of our interactions over the course of his two years at the Jackson School, he demonstrated to be an intelligent, mature, and enthusiastic person, in addition to being quite knowledgeable about his topic,” said Hidalgo.