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Community mourns death of Pagan ’06

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Nearly two weeks after Luis Pagan ’06 drowned while vacationing in Mexico, family members, friends and colleagues continue to mourn as they recall the senior’s enthusiastic nature and devotion to community service.

Pagan disappeared Jan. 12 while swimming in choppy waters off the coast of Pueblo Angel, Oaxaca in southern Mexico. On Jan. 16, fishermen found Pagan’s body on a beach 12 miles from where he had been swimming, according to the Providence Journal. His family and Mexican officials assume that he drowned.

Pagan was born in Puerto Rico, but spent most of his life in Providence, where he dedicated himself to community service efforts. He graduated from Classical High School in 2001.

“Many on campus will recall Luis’ warmth, imaginative intellect, and deft touch on the most difficult issues,” wrote David Greene, vice president of campus life and student services, and Dean of the College Paul Armstrong in a Jan. 16 e-mail to the Brown community.

After hearing of Pagan’s passing, many students and staff members expressed how thankful they are to have known him, whether for years or for only a short time.

Laurabeth Greenwald ’06, a friend of Pagan’s since August, echoed the widely voiced appreciation of the senior’s ability to make people feel comfortable and welcome in his presence.

“Even if you didn’t know him well, it only took meeting him once to fall in love with him,” Greenwald said in an interview. She added that he was a “wonderful, wonderful man” with an “insatiable lust for life” and had eyes that were always warm and smiling, revealing a passionate soul.

“You can’t imagine him as being anything but alive, and that makes him live,” Greenwald said.

Over the past week, Pagan’s message wall on has turned into a lengthy memorial forum, with friends recounting their favorite memories of Pagan and expressing how much they miss him.

“(I) guess we’ll have to postpone our date for another time. (I) see you everywhere,” Joanne Suh ’05 wrote. Suh and Pagan had been friends since their freshman year at Brown.

“Each time you walk into the room kid, with a brilliant light ten times as strong and natural as the sun, I instantly feel at home,” Isel Garcia-Renart ’06 wrote.

“He was never not involved”

When he was 14, Pagan joined Youth In Action, a Providence-based community service organization designed to teach disadvantaged students leadership skills they can pass on to younger students, according to Executive Director Karen Feldman. Pagan went to the organization’s offices on South Providence’s Broad Street every day between the ages of 14 and 18, when he left for college, Feldman said.

“He was never not involved,” Feldman said.

Even as an undergraduate, Pagan remained involved in Youth In Action. He took a year off from his studies to work full-time as a mentor for the organization.

Not only did Pagan sit on the board of directors for six years, he also created an HIV prevention program designed for Providence children. He wrote the entire curriculum himself seven years ago, Feldman said. Since then, the program has reached approximately 3,000 youths.

“Because he wrote the HIV prevention curriculum that is still being taught, because he mentored so many students, he is still here with us,” Feldman said. Still, Pagan’s regular contribution will be sorely missed.

“Youth in Action was really important to him, and he was really important to us,” Feldman said.

Pagan made an equally strong impression as he pursued his passions at Brown. As a concentrator in public and private sector organizations, Pagan hoped to earn a master’s degree and eventually work for a nonprofit organization pursuing community-based social work.

Pagan’s concentration adviser, Associate Professor of Sociology Ann Dill, remembers Pagan as “an extraordinary individual and student” who was “vibrant, funny and sometimes edgy, but in a good way.”

Dill continued: “Luis was always pushing for knowledge and understanding, questioning received wisdom and testing it in the light of his experience.” She cited Pagan’s work on a team project to develop sustainable housing in Rhode Island as an example of his “out-of-the-box” style of thinking. Although different, Dill said, Pagan’s ideas were realistic enough for possible implementation.

“What was important to Pagan was that his work might have a positive effect on the lives of others,” Dill said.

“Everyone I’ve met who knew Luis appreciated his energy, insight and ability to mobilize others to serve the common good,” she said.

Rites & Reason Theatre, located at 155 Angell St., will hold a memorial service for Pagan this Saturday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.

The University will hold a Service of Thanksgiving for Pagan this Sunday, Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. in Sayles Hall, which will be followed by a reception in Leung Gallery.

Youth Pride Inc, a Providence-based organization for which Pagan served as a board member, has set up the Luis Pagan Family Fund to help his family with funeral and related expenses. Michelle Duso, the contact for the fund, can be reached at (401) 421-5626, ext. 31.

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