Dozens of grieving students, faculty and community members filled Sage Chapel to remember and celebrate the life of Angel Hierro ’17, who was found dead in the Latino Living Center on Sunday.
Hierro, a first generation college student and aspiring veterinarian, was an active member of the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities at Cornell, involved in organizations such as MOSAIC, the queer people of color organization and Haven, Cornell’s LGBTQ+ student union, according to a Facebook statement.
Hierros’s unexpected death posed an enormous loss to many Latino, queer and students of color at the service of remembrance, who called Hierro a positive “role model” for marginalized groups on campus.
Multiple students spoke of Hierro’s ability to provide a safe space for students of Hispanic background in the LBGTQ+ community, which they said was often a “difficult intersection” of identity underrepresented at Cornell.
“There was never a movement when Angel wasn’t showcasing his authentic beauty inside and out,” said Brian Patchcoski, associate dean and director of Cornell’s LGBT Resource Center.
“He did not want one community to run independently, but challenged the world from an interconnected framework of love, justice, and holistic being,” Patchcoski added. “He was on a personal mission to help those in our community to discover their smiles and remember the importance of community space and connection.”
Stwart Pena ’17 spoke of how Hierro helped him find pride in his Latino identity, paying homage to his friend in both English and Spanish.
“He taught me to not be scared of what people think, and to have confidence in myself,” Pena said. “I am so proud that he was able to touch so many people’s lives.”
“Rest in peace, brother,” Pena added in Spanish. “We will miss you.”
Hierro’s father Adriano Hierro expressed appreciation for the community’s support, and spoke of his son’s success as a hardworking and compassionate student leader.
“I always told Angel to be whoever he wants to be, and to be proud of himself,” he said. “I always told him that not everyone will agree with how you choose to live your life, but I will always support you, because I am your father.”
Reverend Dr. Kenneth Clarke ended the service by urging grieving family and friends to honor Hierro while continuing to support one another. All service attendees received a note with a final request to “live the way Angel did.”
“Look out for each other. Love and care for each other. Laugh,” the note read.