Raymond P. Hill Jr., 27, of Havertown, a former research assistant at the University of Pennsylvania, died Wednesday, Jan. 9, in San Francisco of an overdose of prescribed medication.

A lively man who showed great promise, Mr. Hill had struggled with depression and addiction for several years, his family said.

On Dec. 31, he went to California on a spiritual journey to clear his head, he told his family in an e-mail. He planned to enter a Caron Foundation drug-rehab center in January, said his mother, Cass.

"I need a breath of fresh air. Mom, don't panic and go on any searches," he wrote. "I look forward to talking to you by Friday."

Mr. Hill was raised in Havertown and lived there and in Center City. He graduated first in the Class of 2003 at West Catholic High School; he was named valedictorian and received commendations in five subjects.

He received a bachelor's degree in psychology in 2007 from Penn, where he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. He also served as president of his fraternity, Delta Phi. "He was our shining star," said his sister, Dottie Robbins. "He was the first of our family to go to college."

Mr. Hill aspired to combine his love of psychology with a law degree so that he could testify as an expert in court. He enrolled at Stanford Law School; it was in his second year of study that Mr. Hill's life changed, his sister said.

He began using methamphetamines; the drugs triggered depression and paranoia, his mother and sister said.

"He was not acting right. He was slipping in and out of his normal self," his sister said. Mr. Hill went for treatment a number of times, but eventually relapsed, his family said.

During a period of sobriety, which ended in November, he worked for Penn's Perelman School of Medicine as a clinical research coordinator in the Brain Behavior Laboratory.

His databased reports on schizophrenia and other brain disorders were so incisive that they were adapted for court presentation, he told his family.

Mr. Hill was a good friend to many. "His words could uplift and inspire others instantly. His heart was open to everyone without judgment, and his joys were bringing people together, resolving conflicts, and igniting others' spirits with love and passion for life," his sister said.

Surviving, in addition to his mother and sister, are a brother, Jimmy Corkery; two nieces; two nephews; a great-nephew; and his partner of nine years, Martin Naradikian.

A visitation at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, will be followed by a 5 p.m. memorial service at the Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany, 330 S. 13th St. Interment is private.

Donations may be made by logging onto Facebook and searching for RayHill Memorial.

Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 215-854-2611 or bcook@phillynews.com.