In memoriam: Arin Adams

By
Tuesday, May 8, 2007

In the fall of 2004, Arin Adams ‘07.5 decided not to turn in a traditional essay for the final project for EL 195: “Seminar in the Teaching of Writing.” Instead, Adams, a Writing Fellow, created “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fellowing a Group Paper.” Sporting the traditional orange and blue logo of the popular how-to guides on its cover, the document offered pithy advice for fellows: “Be interesting. Be engaging. Be creative. Be a Writing Fellow!”

Friends and professors say that Adams was more than interesting, engaging and creative. The “supportive,” “sweet,” “brilliant” and “original” 21-year-old died in October while on leave from the University. Adams was living at home in Detroit and taking classes at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University at the time.

He was a high school Monopoly champion always looking for another eager player, said Rebecca Chastang ’07. Chastang met Adams during their first year at Brown but got to know him better when both were Minority Peer Counselors in Keeney Quadrangle their sophomore year.

“Arin must have had some kind of ultra patience,” Chastang said, referring to Adams’ ability to sit through long games of Monopoly. Adams applied that patience to friends as well. He was “extremely supportive” and gave thoughtful advice, he said. When Chastang had problems, Adams helped her think about them in different, more logical ways. Adams taught Chastang to “challenge myself.”

Adams pushed the limits of thought of his friends and classmates. “Arin would debate about anything. She could argue with you how fast the book would fall from the table,” Chastang said.

Though biologically female, Adams began to identify as male in his junior year at Brown, Jamal Shipman ’07 told The Herald in October. “He would get upset if someone close to her slipped up and called her a female,” said Shipman, who was an MPC with Adams in Keeney.

Adams had two Facebook profiles, one for Brown and one for the University of Michigan. In both, Adams identified as male. But many of those who knew Adams at Brown thought of him as female. And though gender issues were important to Adams, “her three years at Brown was not about her (gender) identity transitioning,” Chastang said. “It was about trying new things and meeting new people, just like anyone else’s college experience.” Chastang added that Adams was always patient with friends about his gender identity.

Adams also made a lasting impression on his professors.

“Arin was always a wonderful seminar student because Arin questioned everything,” said Howard Chudacoff, a professor of history who taught Adams in two courses and was his concentration adviser.

Director of the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center Gail Cohee, who taught Adams in GN 10: “Introduction to Feminist Theory” in Fall 2004, remembered him as a passionate student.

“Always in a class there are a few who stand out as really liking to engage in some pretty complicated questions and that’s how Arin stands out to me – as very engaged, and that’s a positive thing,” she said.

Adams challenged his writing fellowees to think more broadly as well. “If you thought you had grasped an issue in a certain way she would challenge you to look at it in another way,” said Madina Agenor ’05, who was Adams’ fellowee in the spring of 2005.

When Agenor was working on a midterm paper, Adams “encouraged me to make my statements boldly” and to “get my ideas across in a more straightforward manner,” she said.

True to his own advice, Adams offered concise tips for fellowing in his “Complete Idiot’s Guide.”

“Consider bringing small candy,” he wrote. “This has no academic value, but it is a good icebreaker and will make (your) fellowees like you.”

On the back of the guide, in the upper left hand corner, is its price: “$0.00.”

Agenor said Adams’ generous personality set him apart from others. “When she called me it was to ask me how I was doing, not to tell me how she was doing, which I thought was remarkable compared to a lot of other people,” Agenor said.

“She’d be concerned about you but wouldn’t expect anything back,” Agenor said.