Jeremy Ojalehto ’14 — a neurobiology student and Sigma Phi Epsilon brother known to his friends as “G” — died on Jan. 26 at age 23 in Monroe, Washington.
After he sustained complications from a traumatic head injury after a jogging accident in 2013 during his senior year at Cornell, Ojalehto suffered from chronic migraines and long-term mental health issues.
After Ojalehto’s brain injury, his family launched a crowdfunding campaign on youcaring.com in February 2015, with the goal of raising $40,000 to cover his treatment fees. At the time, Ojalehto had just been accepted to Skyland Trail — an Atlanta nonprofit mental health organization that would have provided him with treatment.
Prior to his injury, Ojalehto had entered Cornell after securing roughly $200,000 in federal grants and scholarships, according to The Herald of Everett, a local Washington newspaper.
While at Cornell, Ojalehto’s friends said that his work ethic and dedication earned the respect of many classmates of his.
“He was a completely self-made man,” Austin Gage ’14, a Sigma Phi Epsilon brother, said. “He was an independent self-sufficient man and that carried him all the way to an elite institution like Cornell. That was the reason so many people had respect for him.”
Gage also described Ojalehto as spirited about everything he did.
“He was just full of passion about everything,” Gage said. “He had this incredible curiosity. He was a really committed academic.”
Beyond just neuroscience, Ojalehto was innately curious about things around him and worked hard to improve himself, according to Gage.
“He had this unwavering dedication to the betterment of self,” Gage said. “He was someone who was constantly researching and thinking about how he could be the best version of himself. He didn’t take anything for granted.”
Austin Jarrett ’16, another Sigma Phi Epsilon brother, called him “very respectable.”
“When he was faced with a challenge he would get the job done and he instilled that in me,” Jarrett said.
Many of Ojalehto’s fraternity brothers also respected him for his desire to join the military.
“His grand plan was to join the special forces because he wanted to serve in the military and be in the elite branch,” Gage said. “He was this brilliant intellectual at this elite university, and when he was done he was going to the service. We have so many peers chasing Wall Street jobs and he just wanted to serve, which I think is really admirable.”
Friends of Ojalehto also remembered him for his athletic ability and his motivating presence.
“He was an inspiration for a lot of people to get involved in weightlifting or just being physically active and fit, and [he exemplified] the full spectrum of being well rounded,” Gage said.
Jarrett also said that Ojalehto “would really motivate [him] a lot” when they worked out and that he would remember Ojalehto as a role model.
“He was like a big brother to me. I looked up to him. He exemplified everything that an ideal student wants to be in college,” Jarrett said. “He was a perfect role model to everyone including myself.”
University Resources: Members of the Cornell community seeking support can call Gannett Health Services’ Counseling and Psychological Services (607-255-5155), EARS’ peer counselors (607-255-3277), the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (607-255-2673), the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or find additional resources at caringcommunity.cornell.edu.