Approximately 200 students gathered in Sage Chapel this Saturday afternoon to honor the memory of Nicholas Kau ’12, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, who died over winter break at the age of 18.
Although Kau’s family held a funeral service at St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church New York City on Jan. 17, Kau’s parents, grandparents and two brothers gathered with members of the Cornell community to pay tribute to Kau. Reverend Dr. Kenneth I. Clarke Sr. presided over the ceremony.
Kau, a native of New York City’s Upper West Side, died in New York City on Jan. 10. Information on the exact location and nature of Kau’s death has not been released, and the New York City Police Department refused to comment on the cause of Kau’s death.
Before attending Cornell, Kau was a student at the Park Avenue Christian Day School and the Trinity School. In high school, Kau was involved in athletics and theatre.
Marc Aidinoff, a freshman at Harvard, and another one of Kau’s high school friends, spoke well of his time with Kau.
“[Kau] was an integral part of so many different parts of Trinity life,” Aidinoff said. “He was a friend to just about everyone. He would walk down the halls with a giant grin and give a high-five to every student and teacher he passed. Nick was filled with an infectious joy.”
According to Darren Wang ’12, who attended the Trinity School with Kau, Nicholas played water polo and was an Iron man wrestler. Beyond athletics, Kau directed numerous productions throughout high school.
Kent L. Hubbell ’67, dean of students, spoke of Kau’s theater involvement during his time at Cornell. Kau took acting classes and served as part of the stage crew in Cornell’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
“In one semester, Nicholas became a true Cornellian,” Hubbell said.
Sylvia Sable ’12, a friend and lab partner of Kau, remembered Kau as being “that guy that brightened the room as soon as he walked in. He made you feel good about yourself.”
At the service, Kau’s acting professor, Prof. Jeffrey Guyton, theatre, spoke of Kau’s talent, charm and kindness.
“Nick was the center of the class’s generosity,” said Guyton.
Many of Kau’s fellow residents from Bauer Hall also attended Saturday’s service. Frances Yufen Lee Mehta, faculty in residence of Bauer Hall recalled how it was not uncommon for Kau to visit a friend’s room and lie down to take a nap.
“Everyone felt comfortable with him,” he said. “Students described him as the friend you wanted to bring home to your parents.”
Myron Zhang ’12, one of Kau’s neighbors in Bauer, spoke of Kau’s unique character, genuine nature and passion for life.
“Nick didn’t care about the superficial,” Zhang said. “He followed his heart and did what was important to him.”
Anthony Fragoso ’12, a close friend of Kau’s, described Kau as someone who could make you smile even when you were having a bad day.
“He was the kind of person that you strive to be,” Fragoso said.
An acquaintance of Kau’s shared that even in his brief contact with Kau at Appell Commons each week, Kau’s incredible compassion and willingness to help others was apparent.
The high number of students at Saturday’s service did not surprise Wang; this turnout only confirmed his beliefs of the impact that Kau had on others.
“I think the number of students that turned out yesterday for the service really reflected the impact he made on people,” Wang said. “Even after just one semester at school.”