COURTESY WAUGH FAMILY
Mark Waugh (LAW ’16) was killed Oct. 13 at a friend’s apartment.

In his short time at the Georgetown University Law Center, Mark Edward Waugh (LAW ’16) left behind a legacy of eloquence, dedication and leadership.

Waugh attended Langley High School in nearby McLean,Va., where he befriended classmate Rahul Gupta. Gupta, who received a master’s in physiology at Georgetown in 2013, was charged on Oct. 13 with stabbing Waugh to death after the two had celebrated Gupta’s 24th birthday.

Born June 26, 1990, in Washington, D.C., Waugh was an Eagle Scout who earned the Boy Scouts of America Medal of Honor in 2007 for performing the Heimlich maneuver to save the life of a fellow student choking on a bottle cap. He graduated in 2008 from Langley High School, where he was as a member of the German Honor Society, the Leadership Honor Society, the debate team and Model United Nations. Known for being rambunctious and energetic, Waugh was also a member of the football and wrestling teams.

It was in high school when he befriended Gupta, now 24 and a first-year biomedical engineering graduate student at The George Washington University. Gupta told police that he walked in on his girlfriend cheating with Waugh. The three had been up celebrating in Gupta’s Silver Spring, Md., apartment.

Nancy Waugh, Mark’s mother, told The Gazette, a Maryland community newspaper, that Gupta and Waugh had been best friends since high school.

Waugh attended James Madison University in Virginia, where he quickly found his niche as one of the top members of the school’s debate team, winning the novice tournament with his debate partner as a freshman as well as five other tournaments throughout his college career.

Waugh graduated from JMU with the highest number of debate wins in the team’s history. He was also named a National Debate Scholar and a member of the Cross Examination Debate Association All-American Team, which is composed of the top 30 university-level debaters in the country. On the College Policy Debate Forum, an online discussion board for university-level debaters, several topics have been dedicated to commemorating Waugh’s legacy and memories.

JMU professor Michael Davis, Waugh’s debate coach, attributed the team’s success to Waugh’s commitment and leadership. According to Davis, the team was never ranked higher than it was during Waugh’s tenure, when it was fifth in the country in the National Debate Tournament rankings and second in the American Debate Association rankings.

Davis and former teammates spoke of Waugh’s passion for debate, as well as his commitment to the team. Specifically, they recalled his dedication to advising younger teammates.

“Mark had this uncanny ability to be both completely and totally committed to his goals while at the same time maintaining a healthy perspective that treated each debate as a learning experience,” Davis wrote in an email. “Mark took that same attitude toward everything he experienced in life.”

Georgetown University Law Center professor Nina Pillard, who taught Waugh this semester in her civil procedure class, said that Waugh’s debate skills were noticeable and helped him to stand out in a class of 100 students.

“It showed in how clearly he expressed himself,” Pillard wrote in an email. “He asked the kind of questions that showed a curious mind and a good grasp of the issues.”

Outside of school, Waugh was known for his selflessness and his ability to reach out to others. Friends recalled his ability to relate to others and to make them feel welcome.

“Everyone was Mark’s friend. I am amazed by the number of people who have described Mark as their best friend since his passing,” Davis wrote. “Mark was one of my best friends. … Every time you walked in the room, he had [a smile] for you, and if you did not return it, he would work at it relentlessly until you smiled.”

Davis recalled stories from fellow faculty members or other teammates about Waugh’s acts of kindness, which ranged from getting friends surprise birthday cakes to standing up for a professor who was unjustly treated by her department. Overall, Davis remembered Waugh’s infectious energy.

“Mark was never afraid to hug. His hugs were the kind that let you know he loved you and valued you as a friend,” Davis said at the service. “The great part about his hugs is that he rarely let you come or go without one. If there is one way that we are to honor Mark, I think that it is to give hugs freely.”

Waugh graduated magna cum laude from JMU in May 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in history and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He taught debate in South Korea for a year prior to enrolling in law school.

Professors said that Waugh was insightful and dedicated to his work. As a first-year law student, he was interested in international law and public policy and often participated extensively in classroom discussions.

“He would have loved being a lawyer,” Law Center professor Diana Donahoe wrote in an email. “I wish we all had more time with him at Georgetown to get to know him better.”

Waugh is survived by parents William and Nancy Waugh, brothers Matthew, James and John, grandmother Elizabeth Merrifield, as well as many extended relatives.

Donations are being made in Mark’s name to the Boy Scouts of America, and Davis is also organizing the Mark Waugh Memorial Fund, which will support Waugh’s beloved James Madison debate program.

“This loss strikes us especially hard because we are not just a bunch of people interested in the same extracurricular activity,” Davis wrote. “We are a family that celebrates each other’s successes like they are our own and suffers in each other’s losses in the same way. Losing a core member of our family is indescribably heartbreaking and a loss that I doubt we will ever get over.”

The JMU debate team is currently selling wristbands in the school’s purple and gold colors that read “Rest in Peace.” All proceeds will go toward the Mark Waugh Memorial Fund.

Waugh’s memorial service was held Sunday in Great Falls, Va.

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