Courtesy of Ilana Kotliar '18

Honors Experimental Chemistry I class picture from spring '16. Darryl Wu is in the front right.

August 31, 2016

Wu ’18 Remembered as Modest, Gentle, ‘Exceedingly Kind’

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Students and faculty are mourning the death of Darryl Wu ’18, after he was found dead in his apartment on Tuesday evening.

Wu was a rising junior in the College of Arts and Sciences who was planning to major in chemistry, said Gretchen Ritter, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He “excelled” in national competitions in linguistics and mathematics and was a member of the winning team in the 12th International Linguistics Olympiad — where he was the second highest overall scorer.

Wu also won the 2008 Mathcounts National Competition and was named the 2008 Relly Award for Best Junior Achiever on “Live with Regis and Kelly,” according to Business Wire.

In a statement, Interim President Hunter Rawlings called Wu was “an exceptional student … but first and foremost a beloved son, brother and friend.”

His brother, Darren Wu, graduated from Cornell last semester, Rawlings said.

Wu attended Lakeside School in Seattle and was the first person from Washington ever to earn a perfect score and place first in the individual competition at the 39th American Regions Math League tournament, according to an ARML press release.

Prof. John Marohn, chemistry, called the loss “heartbreaking,” saying that Wu was “one of the brightest students I have ever taught.”

“Darryl was very quiet,” Marohn said. “His work was off scale. His death is a huge loss.”

Prof. Thomas Ruttledge, chemistry, said he knew Wu from two honors chemistry courses. He called Wu a “person driven by curiosity” and a “man of great honor and kindness.”

“[Wu] was a student of immense depth,” Ruttledge said. “He frequently came into my office hours with questions about organic chemistry that were usually very insightful. He was very curious about chemistry and science. He was not a student who just studied for exams, he was a student who wanted to know more every single day simply to enrich his life.”

Ruttledge added that Wu was “quiet, soft-spoken, respectful, honest and exceedingly kind.”

“[Wu] was modest and somewhat doubtful of his talents as most superb students are,” he said. “He was not a ‘showy’ student, simply a student who loved to learn, worked hard in classes, and faithfully worked problems and engaged with the material everyday.”

Ruttledge said his initial disbelief upon hearing of the student’s death was soon replaced by a “deep sadness.”

“[Wu’s] gentle nature and sincere kindness will always be remembered by me,” he said. “I would ask any of our chemistry majors who want or need to talk to reach out for help, and I am offering myself always as an ear, both now and in the future.”

Katie Stawiasz ’18, who took honors organic chemistry lab with Wu last semester, called him “inquisitive.”

“[Wu] was always so willing to help anyone who had questions in lab,” Stawiasz said. “He … really seemed to have a passion for chemistry.”

Ashley Vincent ’17 said she briefly met him in the chemistry lounge last week and that he struck her as a “hardworking and generally friendly student.”

Although Wu was a chemistry major, he was also known for his “interest and talent in linguistics,” said Patrick Niedzielski ’17, President of Cornell Undergraduates in Linguistics, in an email to the club members.

Niedzielski said Wu was actively involved in the linguistics department, often attending Cornell Undergraduates in Linguistics brunches and the department’s yearly colloquium.

“Darryl was an active participant in many of our linguistics classes, a member who brought with him new perspectives and insightful comments,” he said. “As many of us knew Darryl personally, this loss hits us very close to home.”

“We have to be there for each other,” Ruttledge said of the incident. “Always.”