Courtesy of the Friedman Family

Friends and family remember Matthew Friedman '26 for his brilliance and love for life.

May 3, 2023

‘Beloved’ First-Year Student Matthew Friedman Remembered as Brilliant, Kind

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Matthew Friedman ’26, a first-year student studying biological sciences who hoped one day to become a surgeon, was announced dead on April 12. He was 19 years old.

The primary cause of Friedman’s death was a brain aneurysm suffered in his sleep, according to his father, Brian Friedman ’95.

As the Cornell community reels from his death, Friedman’s former friends, fraternity brothers and family remember him with affection and admiration for his kindness, intelligence and infectious happiness.

Matthew at prom. (Courtesy of the Friedman Family)

Friedman grew up in Marlboro, New Jersey and frequently volunteered with his local Emergency Medical Service. At Marlboro High School, Friedman ran on the track team, was on student council and served as his class president senior year.

“Matt was one of the most influential people I’ve ever met,” wrote Keith Omane-Agyei, a friend of Friedman’s from high school, in a statement to The Sun. “He set the standard incredibly high, and I always wanted to chase it. No matter where we were, whether we were on the track or [in] the classroom, I’ve always looked up to him.”

In coming to Cornell, Friedman joined his older sister, Alexa Friedman ’24. The two would frequently spend time together and had a tradition of “Quesadilla Wednesdays,” when they would update each other on classes and their personal lives. 

“The day that my brother got into Cornell was one of the best days of my life, because I knew that we were going to school together again. I was so excited to share all of my favorite Cornell experiences with my little brother,” Alexa Friedman wrote in a statement to The Sun. “I knew that Matthew would be successful at Cornell, even in the hardest classes, because of his hard work, determination and what seemed like endless knowledge about anything and everything.”

A student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Friedman had a concentration in neurobiology and was pursuing a minor in law and society. He planned to attend medical school following graduation and hoped to join Cornell EMS in his sophomore year.

Matthew with Sigma Chi’s dog. (Courtesy of the Friedman Family)

Friedman also had a deep connection to his fraternity, Sigma Chi, and deeply cared for and looked after the fraternity’s two Saint Bernards, Franklin and Howard. He was a member of the fraternity’s newest pledge class. 

“Matt’s passing has left a void in the hearts of all who knew him. He was a cherished friend and a beloved member of our fraternity,” wrote Sigma Chi president Jaden Queen ’24 in a statement to The Sun. “I was fortunate enough to have shared a variety of passions with him. Whether we were discussing medicine, sports, music or even becoming president, Matt made every conversation engaging and enlightening. … His absence is deeply felt, and we will forever cherish the memories he gave us.”

One of Friedman’s closest friends, fraternity brother and roommate at Cornell, Jasper Cahn ’26, remembers Friedman as an intelligent man with multifaceted interests.

“Matt was the most brilliant, positive and beloved individual in every community I shared with him. Having interests in becoming an orthopedic surgeon, minoring in law and taking electives about sports management, there wasn’t an academic field that didn’t interest Matt,” Cahn wrote to The Sun. “There are no words to describe how much our community misses such a key component of our daily lives.”

Friend Will Ritter ’26 recalled his car ride back from spring break on Easter Sunday with Friedman. They discussed Friedman’s recent trip to Italy, architecture and art, and how Friedman was almost moved to tears upon seeing one of Michelangelo’s statues.

“We talked about becoming janitors in the Vatican if only to wander the halls and the Sistine Chapel alone late at night — to sleep under ceilings the color of stars. It is this realization of self and real beauty that I think separates wisdom from intellect, and it is clear he possessed both of these virtues,” Ritter wrote in a statement to The Sun. “He lived so intentionally that I believe he lived more of what is really life in 19 years than I might hope to in 60, though he encourages me to follow his lead.”

Ritter compared Friedman to great thinkers who represent the best that mankind has to offer and who left this world too soon or went through their lives unrecognized.

Friedman’s girlfriend, Sara Papale ’26, remembers him as the best friend she could have and a constant support. 

“Matthew Friedman was a person who always brought out the best in all of us. He always provided a positive example for everyone around him, he was honest, kind and giving,” Papale wrote in a statement to The Sun. “Matthew would want all of us to strive to accomplish our goals and achieve greatness as he was destined to do. The way Matthew could perform at school is something I strive to achieve in my educational career. He was brilliant in so many ways here at Cornell.”

Friedman’s family and friends remember him as someone who constantly put others before himself. 

“In my comments at Matthew’s funeral, I talked about trying to live life in a way that would make Matthew proud of us,” Brian Friedman wrote in a statement to The Sun. “To love life the way he loved life, and live it the way he would have. That is all we can do. If we can do that then his impact will live on.”

Matthew with his two sisters, Alexa and Jenna. (Courtesy of the Friedman Family)

Friedman is also survived by his mother, Diane Friedman, and his younger sister, Jenna Friedman.

According to Alexa, Friedman was always happy. He made sure those around him were as happy as he was.

“If anyone was going to change the world, it was going to be Matthew,” Alexa Friedman wrote. “Matthew positively impacted so many lives in his too short 19 years. He will be very missed by everyone who was lucky enough to know him, and our family will never be the same.”

Support services are available to all members of the Cornell community. Students may consult with counselors from Cornell Health Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) by calling (607) 255-5155.