Gabriel Piedrahita '96, a 22-year-old Winthrop House resident, died on December 20 in the crash of American Airlines Flight 965 bound for Cali, Colombia.
Piedrahita, who attended high school in Miami, was on his way to visit his parents in Cali when the plane went down.
Housemates and friends of Piedrahita attended a house meeting last night to receive information about Piedrahita's death and to recall their time with him.
"Gabriel was loved and admired by many in Winthrop House. He was an inspiring thinker and a beautiful person and was a central figure in the life of Winthrop House." Winthrop House Senior Tutor Greg Mobley said in a telephone interview yesterday.
A memorial service for Piedrahita, an applied math concentrator, is tentatively scheduled for next weekend.
Piedrahita's father, Francisco, mother, Claudia, and brothers, Vincente and Sandro, are expected to attend. Sandro Piedrahita graduated in the class of 1990.
John E. Tessitore '96, one of Piedrahita's roommates and closest friends, said that more than 15 of Piedrahita's friends returned to Harvard from winter break upon hearing of the crash.
"People flew back, drove back, came back from all over. We were camped out in our common room watching the news. We had five phones in our common room and we were calling Mexico, Puerto Rico, Jordan, everywhere trying to get information and talking with people. It was very emotional," Tessitore said.
He said that the friends gathered in Winthrop did not receive official word of Piedrahita's death until about 11:30 p.m. on Friday, December 22. "Once we got word from the family, we waited about 10 seconds and then we turned around and hit the phones again and were on the phones until 1 a.m. talking about it with other friends," Tessitore said.
"Gabriel was the kind of person that everybody--really everybody--knows. You can't help but love Gabriel. He's a character and we love him, and we miss him terribly," Tessitore said.
"We're trying to find a way to cope with five of us in the room and not six of us," he added.
Tessitore said the response to the death "has been pretty incredible in terms of the number of people calling and in terms of the house masters and tutors, who have been very, very helpful."
Duane A. Cranston' 96 another roomate, extended a request from Piedrahita's mother to write down memories of his college years to share with family members. Mobley said a scrapbook of these memories will be gathered for the family.
Piedrahita's other roommates are Paul K. Kim '96, Douglas W. Scott '96 and Brendan D. Sheehan '96, Joshua I. Solomon '96 was a member of the rooming group sophomore year.
The house plans to create a fund of some sort in Piedrahita's memory. Donations in his name may be made through the Winthrop House Commitee.