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UPDATED: September 15, 2015, at 4:51 a.m.
Speaking to graduating seniors of the Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, Luke Z. Tang ’18 had a message for his classmates.
“There are no bad people in this world, only complex ones,” Tang said. “Everyone has a story whether you know it or not ... everyone has the capacity for good and evil.”
Tang, who was a sophomore in Lowell House, died on Saturday suddenly and unexpectedly.
The message of empathy and faith that he delivered to his high school classmates that spring day is one he lived throughout his time at Harvard. A month into his freshman year, Memorial Church named Tang a Church School teacher, describing him as “an avid teacher” who planned to study physics and was “passionate about math and poetry.” In high school, Tang taught at a summer Bible school for the Chinese Baptist Church of New Orleans, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
He was a member of the Asian American Christian Fellowship at Harvard, according to an email sent to residents of Lowell House. He also served on the board of the Harvard Interfaith Forum and as education chair on the Harvard Undergraduate Mathematics Association's executive board.
"I still remember interviewing him, and being absolutely astounded by the visions he had for the future of our organization," Mathematics Association president Jimmy Jiang '17 wrote in an email.
Several of Tang’s friends at Harvard, still mourning the loss, were not available to comment for this obituary. But Lowell House Master Diana L. Eck said she met Tang at the House’s sophomore outing last Sunday, where she took pictures of Tang surrounded by his friends.
Eck recalled Tang standing in the front of the boat, the location of the outing, as he looked out at the Charles River banks, sunshine splayed across his face.
Prior to enrolling at Harvard, Tang was named his New Orleans school district’s student of the year, a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, and a U.S. Presidential Scholar. He also taught violin to inner-city New Orleans children and served as a concertmaster of the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra, according to the Times-Picayune.
Tang’s parents, Wendell Tang and Christina Tang, came to the United States in 1990, according to the Times-Picayune. He also has an older brother, Richard.
In an interview, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana said words could not adequately describe the magnitude of the tragedy.
“My heart goes out to the family and the friends who are grieving and I hope that everyone in our community knows that they don't have to travel on this journey of grief alone,” Khurana said.
Administrators in Lowell hosted students at a gathering on Saturday evening in the wake of Tang’s death. Originally planned to take place in the Lowell masters’ residence, House staff had to move it to the larger junior common room to accommodate the stream of people who attended. Many people still had to stand, Eck said.
“This was a profound testament to how important he had been in the short time he was at Harvard,” Eck said. “There is such a strong group of students who are sophomores who know him, knew him, loved him, and will continue to remember him.”
—Staff writer Jalin P. Cunningham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JalinCunningham.
—Staff writer Ivan B. K. Levingston can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @IvanLevingston.
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