A 22-year-old University of Southern Maine student died last week of complications from epilepsy, the school’s dean wrote to students on Tuesday.

Nickolas Evan Acker of Saco passed away in his sleep on Dec. 27 due to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy, a rare occurrence that often follows a seizure.

Acker, originally from the Midwest, had transferred to USM from Southern Maine Community College, his obituary read. He was studying business with a focus on political science and economics and was set to graduate this year.

Recently, he had been elected to USM’s student Senate and told the campus newspaper that he hoped to develop a “forum where students could voice their concerns about social, political, and cultural issues on campus.”

David McKenzie, USM’s interim dean, wrote to students that counseling and other support would be made available to anyone who wanted it.

Acker’s obituary indicated that he “gracefully and courageously fought to overcome the challenges of epilepsy.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy occurs in about one out of every 1,000 cases. The exact cause is not known but the deaths often are linked to seizures, the hallmark of the neurological disorder.

Acker is survived by his mother and stepfather, a sister and two stepbrothers.

His family plans to hold an annual celebration event for Acker, to be announced in the spring, that would support the organization Citizens United Research in Epilepsy.

“His extraordinary goodness and decency in the example of a quiet life, well-lived, gave inspiration to everyone in the world around Nickolas each day and will not soon be forgotten,” his obituary read.

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