Saturday in Philadelphia at a service held to celebrate the life of Alex Holiat ’06, his mother described him as “a gentle breeze.” For those that knew Holiat, his family and friends, many of whom are members of the Cornell community, this was a fitting description.
Holiat, 22, graduated from Cornell in 2006 with a degree from the Department of Material Sciences and Engineering. He began employment the following July in Phoenix, Ariz., at Intel Corporation, a company with whom he interned as part of an engineering program as an undergraduate, according to friend Jonah Allaben grad.
Allaben was a member of Holiat’s pledge class in the Sigma Pi fraternity and lived with Holiat for a majority of his time as an undergraduate.
“He was actually one of the first people I met at Cornell,” Allaben said. “He was someone you could really count on, someone who united social groups and was genuinely friends with everyone. He was the glue.”
It was for his employment at Intel that Holiat purchased his Tempe home where he was found on May 6th, just over a week ago. There is little information regarding the circumstances surrounding Holiat’s death. According to officials, Holiat suffered an accidental head injury that caused him to fall into a pool on his property.
“It just doesn’t make sense to a lot of people right now,” said Giorgio Roccaro ’07.
Holiat was Roccaro’s “big brother” in the fraternity, a position that Roccaro described as “a mentor for me.”
“He and I had a close relationship even though we were different years,” Roccaro said, “I think the best way to describe him was as a person who knew how to make everyone else have a good time, and he was a great leader in the fraternity. There was not a single person we knew who could ever say anything bad about him.”
Alex Deyle ’06, also a friend of Holiat’s in Sigma Pi, said that Holiat was extremely humble and rarely spoke of his accomplishments, including those outside of academics, such as his skills as a pianist that led him to perform at Carnegie Hall.
According to Deyle, approximately 40 of Alex’s Sigma Pi brothers and countless other friends traveled from all over the country to attend the services.
“At the funeral services, I heard a description of him that I thought was right on,” said Deyle, “‘an incredible balance of strength and sweetness.’”
The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs organized a bus to take 15 undergraduate members of the fraternity to the services.
These current members of the fraternity have made their own contributions to the celebration of Holiat’s life.
“As of now, I wrote a small article in the alumni newsletter just letting it be known that he passed and that he is missed and that our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” said Roccaro.
According to Roccaro, a blog site is also being put together so that others can express their thoughts. Additionally, the fraternity plans on placing two memorial plaques within the house to honor Holiat, in the library and in one of the common lounges. Behind one plaque will be a donation of $5,000 dollars to the fraternity in his memory, by the Class of 2006 alumni.
Roccaro extended his wishes for Holiat’s family and friends, saying, “I think that it’s important for those who were close to him and for those who remember him fondly to focus on the life that he had, rather than the life he would have had.”
“He was someone who really captivated a crowd, and he was a very caring person all around — it’s tough to describe a person like that,” Allaben said.
“Alex had a sense of humor that could lighten any situation and make anyone laugh,” said Deyle. “He will be remembered and missed by all those who knew him.”