A memorial service was held yesterday in the Townhouse Community for Matt Pearlstone ’09, who died over spring break while visiting the University of Virginia.
Rev. Janet Shortall, associate director of Cornell United Religious Work, delivered the invocation and Susan Murphy ’73, vice president of student and academic services, spoke on behalf of the University.
Prof. W. Kent Fuchs, Joseph Silbert Dean of the College of Engineering, described Matt’s academic contributions to Cornell community during his brief time here.
Fuchs, a professor in the department of Electrical and computer engineering, said Matt had a deep interest in artificial intelligence, which led to his desire to study computer science. Matt impressively made Dean’s List while taking 20 credits last semester and was enrolled in 19 more credits, including three computer science courses, this semester.
Fuchs also cited Matt’s accomplishments outside the classroom, particularly his involvement with the Underwater Autonomous Vehicle Team.
Clark Rodman, Matt’s residence hall director, read remarks sent by the Pearlstone family. Matt’s parents said that their son was a very determined individual and that once he set a goal, he could accomplish anything. In high school, Matt decided he wanted to run a marathon. The Pearlstones, concerned that their son’s practice was insufficient for him to safely attempt the marathon, encouraged him to train harder by telling him that he would have to pay for the travel expenses if he did not finish the race in five hours. The family sent in a picture of Matt crossing the finish line at 4 hours, 59 minutes, 12 seconds. Matt ran two more marathons afterwards, showing significant improvement in his times. The family’s remarks were followed by a picture slideshow.
Kyle Hansen ’09, Avi Aisenberg ’09 and Philip Chow ’09, Matt’s roommates, began a candle lighting ceremony for the Townhouse residents and shared memories of Matt. Hansen said Matt had set up their Townhouse’s entire entertainment system, from which friends enjoyed late-night movies and video games.
Chow described Matt as a very outgoing and giving person, who was always willing to help others with homework problems.
To conclude the service, Rabbi Edward Rosenthal, director of Cornell Hillel, recited the Mourner’s Kaddish, a Jewish prayer for the dead. Additionally, there were seeds, soil and cups set up to prepare seedlings for transplant in a memorial garden for Matt.
After the service, Manuel Allende ’08, Matt’s residence advisor, described Matt.
“He was very good to have around here,” he said. “He never caused problems or anything like that. He was always good, was very approachable and was very easy-going with me, which is all that I can ask of from a kid. Hopefully, the University will learn from tragedies like these.”
Rodman also shared several stories about Matt.
“This November, a couple days after Matt got his XBOX 360, he had it all hooked up, surround sound, speakers, everything. He turned it on Saturday night around dinner time and blared it so you hear the whole system start up, and then I heard, ‘hey everybody, I got my new Xbox, come on over.’ Then all everyone went over and there was pizza, wings and soda,” Rodman said. “He was playing Madden ’06 and he was just totally going nuts. Everyone was just having a good time playing and watching.”
Rodman continued, “His TV screen must be about six feet wide and three feet high; it’s enormous, and he has speakers set up creating a miniature movie theater. He would do movie nights all the time; he would come up to the activities center to borrow movies. He would do crazy little things like that all the time.”
Rodman also recalled another story about Matt that reflected his personality.
“I heard people outside laughing and screaming. I went out and they were just having a snowball fight. I saw Matt go grab a recycling bucket, fill it with snow and then dump it on somebody,” he said. “Then, five people went in their apartments, grabbed their recycling buckets, filled them with snow and chased Matt around the courtyard. Matt was running around screaming, ‘You can’t get me,’ and then he slipped and fell in the snow. Next thing you know, five buckets of snow just go ‘whoosh’ on top of him. And then he just makes a snow angle and goes, ‘Look, I’m an angel, I’m an angel,’ and everyone just starts laughing. I walk out there wondering what’s going on, and it was just hysterical.”
Rodman concluded, “He was a good guy. He had a lot of positive energy, he was very friendly and we are going to miss him.”
Archived article by Ross Anderson
Sun Staff Writer