To the University Community:
It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the death of fourth-year College student Michael Hammaker, originally of Bethesda, Maryland, who passed away on Friday, May 21. Our thoughts and prayers are with Michael’s parents, Catherine and Michael Hammaker; his sister Jane (CLAS '18 & Batten '19); other family members; and his many friends and classmates at UVA.
At UVA, Michael joined the Virginia Gentlemen (or VGs), an a capella group well-known on and off Grounds. I had the privilege of seeing Michael perform in Old Cabell Hall on several occasions and his joy in performing with his peers was clearly evident. His family and friends note that making music was one of Michael’s greatest passions in life and the cornerstone of his happiness, and he was prone to break into song at any moment. While he had an unmistakable soft spot for classics, he enjoyed nearly every genre, from hip hop to musical theater. One of his proudest moments as a VG was performing his rendition of Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right” at the Fall Family Weekend Concert in 2018. His beautiful voice brought happiness to so many, and he enjoyed sharing it with the community.
UVA meant the world to Michael and also brought the world to him. Michael’s performances with the VGs took him near and far: from Charlottesville to Baltimore, Auckland to Barcelona, and everywhere in between. He loved traveling with the VGs, and as Business Manager, he organized the group’s performance on a cruise to Guatemala, Cabo San Lucas, San Diego and Los Angeles.
Beyond his passion for music and wanderlust, Michael was a fiercely loyal and honest friend to everyone. His friends note Michael was never afraid to speak his mind, which when paired with his ceaseless integrity, meant he held the VGs to the best forms of themselves. One VG remembers Michael “gave you his love as a gift. Love was his currency and he always paid things forward with love.” Another friend notes that Michael “lived his life for us, and what an incredible gift he was. We all have been blessed by the life that Michael Hammaker lived.”
His many friends recall that Michael took risks, he had fun, he was goofy, he made you laugh, and he took the pressure off of himself when he could focus his energy on helping each and every one of his friends get the most out of life. A fellow VG describes Michael as “an absolute bulldog” who put his full weight behind anything he believed in. “You never got Mike at fifty percent. His passion for life is what inspired people, it got them to stand a little taller, think a little deeper, give a little more.” Another friend remembers that Michael “had the best laugh. It was a deep belly laugh that reverberated into this great chorus of sound. The pure joy that emanated from his laughter was contagious and infectious. I cherished every laugh and I would do anything to make him laugh one more time.”
Services to celebrate Michael’s life will take place on June 5, beginning at 1:00 p.m., at National Presbyterian Church, 4102 Nebraska Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20016. Michael’s family welcomes all who wish to remember Michael.
The loss of a classmate and fellow member of our community is painful and unsettling, all the more so when many in our community have scattered for summer break. If you are a student and need support during this time, you may call Counseling and Psychological Services at 434-243-5150. Faculty and staff can find a similar resource through the Faculty and Employee Assistance Program and may access services by completing a brief intake form.
Please take care of yourselves while most of you are away from Grounds, and keep Michael’s family in your thoughts.
Allen W. Groves
University Dean of Students