Harvard Senior Dies In ‘Heartbreaking’ Loss

UPDATED: October 22, 2017 at 11:20 p.m.

Alexander H. Patel ’18, an Adams House senior whom peers remembered as an intelligent, attentive friend with a passion for teaching, has died in a “heartbreaking” loss, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana wrote in an email to students Sunday.

Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Meghan Kelly wrote in an email Sunday evening that “there is no foul play suspected” in Patel’s death. Khurana wrote in his email that the death was “sudden and unexpected.”

“This is very a painful time for those who knew Alexander, especially his family and friends,” Khurana wrote. “Our thoughts and our prayers are with each of them. I ask that you each offer comfort to those around you who may be suffering during this time and need a shoulder to lean on.”

Patel was a Philosophy and Mathematics concentrator and a former Crimson News editor. He served as a teaching fellow for Computer Science 61: “Systems Programming and Machine Organization” in fall 2015 and for Computer Science 161: “Operating Systems” in spring 2017. According to his Facebook, Patel hailed from Denver, Colorado. He lived off campus.

During his time on The Crimson, Patel covered Harvard Business School and worked on the paper’s data analysis team, winning a national award for his story on faculty political donations. He had worked for the past six months in a laboratory run by Computer Science professor Margo I. Seltzer ’83, who wrote in an email that Patel was “a beloved member of our lab.”

Roughly 50 students and administrators, including Khurana, gathered Sunday evening in the Adams House Lower Common Room to honor Patel’s memory. Some students brought flowers, which attendees arranged in a glass vase in the middle of the room.

Seated around a table bearing the flowers and two lit candles, those present shared stories about Patel for nearly an hour. Sometimes attendees—many of them tearful—remained silent for minutes at a time.

Afterwards, students clustered in small groups and traded memories of Patel.

“More than anything, he was just a sweet guy,” said Hugh G. Strike ’19, who said he was Patel’s freshman year roommate.

“He was always there in every sense. You could tell,” said Brian L. Sapozhnikov ’19, who said he once took a Philosophy class with Patel. “When you were talking to him, he was actually listening.”

Mehdi Aourir ’18 said Patel served as a Teaching Fellow for “a lot” of the classes he has taken at Harvard. He called Patel his “savior” during office hours.

“He was always the person who would help with a smile,” Aourir said. “Savior was the first thing that came to mind. He was extremely smart.”

Alexis J. Ross ’20, too, said she remembers Patel’s skill as a teacher. Even though she never took a class taught by him, Ross said that, almost from the minute she met Patel, he started “passionately telling me everything he knew” and offering to meet and chat further down the road.

Ross, a Crimson editor, said Patel’s warmth and openness were infectious.

“I remember being so grateful to meet someone so welcoming,” Ross said. “It’s heartbreaking that he’s gone, and I’ll really miss him.”

—Check thecrimson.com for updates. A full obituary is forthcoming.

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