University News

Family, friends remember Tripathi

Those who knew the former undergraduate paid tribute in a memorial service Saturday

By and
Features Editor and University News Editor
Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Family members and friends shared memories of Sunil Tripathi, the former undergraduate whose memorial service took place Saturday in Manning Chapel.

Friends and family members remembered Sunil Tripathi, a former member of the class of 2012, as principled and compassionate, celebrating his life in a memorial service in Manning Chapel Saturday afternoon and sharing remembrances in interviews with The Herald.

Tripathi’s body was identified April 25, more than a month after he went missing.

The memorial service took place on a sunny spring day, the kind friends said he would have spent juggling on the Main Green. University Chaplain Janet Cooper Nelson and President Christina Paxson paid their respects to Tripathi and his family before opening the floor for others to offer their remembrances in the tradition of the Quaker service.

Tripathi, a philosophy concentrator on leave from the University, often served as a source of calm, said sister Sangeeta Tripathi ’04 at the memorial service. “He just always had a way of, within one sentence or a few words, putting things in perspective.”

“He lived a very contemplative life,” said Joe Rosner ’12, a friend who lived near Tripathi during their sophomore and junior years.

But he also had a humorous side. “He had a very dry sense of humor, which would always catch you by surprise because he was a very quiet guy,” Rosner said.

Tripathi chose his words carefully, making sure never to hurt anyone, even inadvertently, Yvonne Yu ’14 said.

“I never heard him say a bad word about anybody,” said Kelly Winter ’12, a friend who lived near Tripathi during their junior years.

Tripathi often comforted friends and strangers in times of need, interning with the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless in Pawtucket one summer, friends recalled at the memorial service. The youngest of three children, he left his parents an empty nest when he started college, mother Judy Tripathi said at the service — so he called her every night for two years after arriving at Brown.

Yu recalled Tripathi walking a guest home at the end of a party she threw when the student didn’t want to walk alone, even though he did not know her. “He was just willing to go to really great lengths for other people,” Yu said.

While Tripathi was widely described by friends as careful and quiet, his composure belied strong passions for philosophy, music, the environment and even the Sharpe Refectory, where friends said he was known for eating nearly anything within the bounds of his vegetarianism.

Tripathi, who played the saxophone, took multiple classes in the Department of Music and performed in a wind symphony group and a saxophone quartet. “It meant a great deal to him, this world without words,” said Professor of Music David Josephson at the memorial service.

“He had a more ideological view of education, like you should be at college to learn what you want to learn,” said Vincent Pham ’12, who became friends with Tripathi as his first-year CHEM 0330: “Equilibrium, Rate and Structure” lab partner and later lived with him one summer in Providence.

Conversations with Tripathi were marked by his ability to be fully present, whether pondering something he learned in a philosophy class or having the patience to teach relatives Sudoku, friends and family members said. “The one thing about Sunny: When he would sit with you, he was with you,” said aunt Lisa Vargas at the memorial service. “There was no other place in the world he was.”

Sangeeta Tripathi added that despite the service’s sad atmosphere — which she said her brother would have hated — the family was inspired by the outpouring of support it had received since Tripathi’s disappearance. “There’s so much love in this room,” she said.

After friends and family members spoke, a saxophonist closed the tribute with a performance of “Ave Maria.”

Attendees left messages of love and condolence on program inserts, which bore the outline of a hand with fingers outstretched.

“Sometimes it seems like we have to lose people to discover how special they were,” wrote Tripathi’s girlfriend Malika Hale ’13 in an email to The Herald. “With Sunil, I always felt like everybody already knew.”