Cornell sophomore Paul Benton Fisher-York died on Dec. 25 at age 19.

Courtesy of Fisher York Family

Cornell sophomore Paul Benton Fisher-York died on Dec. 25 at age 19.

December 29, 2019

‘Kind and Loving’ Computer Science Student Dies at 19

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Known as a talented computer science student in the College of Engineering, Paul Benton Fisher-York ’22 passed away on Dec. 25 while at home with his family. He was 19.

Fisher-York died from a previously undiagnosed cardiac condition, according to an email sent to the engineering and computer and information science community.

“He loved programming and had a way with anything electronic,” his parents wrote in an obituary shared with The Sun. “Paul was kind and loving to his family and friends.”

Paul always had a proclivity for computers and robotics, participating in technology-oriented clubs throughout his time in middle and high school, according to his parents Prof. Elizabeth Fisher-York, mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Thomas Fisher-York.

An Ithaca native, Fisher-York further fostered his passion for robotics and computer science on Ithaca High School’s Code Red robotics team, where he worked ardently to develop codes for the team’s robots to perform tasks such as carrying blocks from one place to another during competitions.

Shortly after graduating high school, Fisher-York was part of a team which aimed to develop a radio device for rowing teams that would allow coaches to better communicate with rowers over long distances.

This passion led Fisher-York to Cornell’s College of Engineering to study computer science. Through computers, Fisher-York believed he could play a role in molding the world’s future.

Fisher-York’s parents told The Sun that their son enjoyed his time at Cornell, which included  making lots of friends and taking a writing seminar his freshman year on the Peloponnesian War — a contrast from his interests in computer science.

During his first semester at Cornell, Fisher-York joined Cornell University’s Underwater Autonomous Vehicles team, an organization that designs, builds and programs autonomous submarines for competitions. Fisher was involved in the organization’s software sub-team, where he wrote code for the  for the submarines’s underwater machinations.

Anthony Viego ’20, a team lead at AUV, described Fisher-York as “one of the most enthusiastic people” he had ever met. Viego told The Sun that Fisher-York always looked to expand his knowledge and push everyone on the team.

“He was incredibly smart and would always challenge us, and just generally he was a really fun person have around — he really impacted the team,” Viego said.

While Fisher-York was dedicated, he also had a “funny, goofy” side, Viego said. Viego recalled the first time he met the computer science student, saying that Fisher-York narrated the details of his “epic” excursion in using a LimeBike to get across campus to meet the AUV team in time.

“He was always looking to talk to me and our software sub team about all the cool things we could be doing with machine learning,” Viego said. “He would like to make a lot of jokes, specifically software jokes, and brighten the mood.”

Fisher-York was previously a bass singer in Cornell University’s Chorale, and held an internship at Vector Magnetics, a computer software company based in Ithaca, according to a statement from the University. The computer science major also served as a consultant for the honors version of the computer science class Object-Oriented Programing and Data Structures.

In the statement to the Cornell community, Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, said Fisher-York “touched many people at Cornell and in the surrounding community.”

Fisher-York is survived by his parents, Elizabeth and Thomas, his sister, Minsun Fisher-York and his grandmother, Elizabeth Fisher. He is also survived by aunts and uncles Stephen and Linley York, Amy and Rich Wakefield, Lynne Torrey, Susan and Tony Pietricola and Anne and Gary Vollen as well as “by many cousins and many friends from all stages of his life,” his parents wrote in an obituary.

The University plans to schedule community support meetings when it reopens in January, and a memorial for Fisher-York will be held at a future date.  

Students may consult with counselors from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) by calling 607-255-5155. Employees may call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at 607-255-2673. An Ithaca-based Crisisline is available at 607-272-1616. For additional resources, visit caringcommunity.cornell.edu.