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News, University News

Eric Wu ’22 remembered as kind, determined and generous soul

Family, friends and members of the Brown community treasure Wu’s legacy

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Frederic Whitney “Eric” Wu ’22 is remembered by community members as ‘determined,’ ‘generous’ and ‘quietly exceptional.’

Frederic Whitney “Eric” Wu ’22, a go-getter with a passion for helping others, passed away in a tragic automobile accident Sept. 23. Eric would now be 21 years old. 

Eric grew up in Manchester, Vermont and New York City, where he graduated from Saint David’s School. Eric later attended Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts and would have been a junior at the University this fall.

Eric’s father, Douglas Wu, described his son as quiet and kind, and someone who “always went the extra mile.” 

Douglas Wu remembered that on a family vacation to the Caribbean, Eric wanted to get a scuba diving license at age nine but the age limit was 16. Nonetheless, Eric stayed up all night studying for the test and even managed to get a perfect score, despite the fact that “the tank was bigger than he was at the time.”

Eric was also a dedicated and versatile athlete who played squash, ran cross-country and track and field and had a passion for golf. This year, he was training for an Ironman Triathlon in France.

Eric was a “brilliant young man,” Visiting Professor Masaki Matsubara, a scholar of Japanese Religions in the East Asia Program at Cornell who was Wu’s professor for “RELS 1700A: The History, Philosophy and Practice of Rinzai Zen: Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku,” wrote in an email to The Herald.   

Matsubara remembered that Eric was very interested in “the practical applications of Zen to daily life” and meditation. Eric strongly encouraged Matsubara to offer evening virtual meditation sessions, which he made sure to faithfully attend, Matsubara wrote.

Eric’s extraordinary determination was always accompanied by an unstoppable desire to help others.

Eric was strongly interested in public service and wanted to enlist in the military or join the Peace Corps after he graduated from Brown. He made sure to wake up at 5:00 a.m. to attend shadow drills and trainings in Providence College’s ROTC program, even if he was not officially enrolled and received no scholarships or commissions.

Wu’s father remembers that when his son was a child, he would be the first to dip into his allowance to give pocket money to a person experiencing homelessness on the street in his neighborhood in New York City. Once, on a trip to Nepal, Eric went to climb Mount Everest and returned with an empty knapsack because he gave all of his high-tech climbing gear to the Sherpas.

“He was always there to help other people, always kind, generous and never wanted any fanfare of recognition,” Douglas Wu said. “He was a quiet leader (and) people gravitated towards him.”

Alexander Karr, Eric’s childhood friend, described him as “quietly exceptional.” In a private obituary, Karr remembered being on a trip with Eric, who had recently been accepted into every high school he applied to. Karr and his friends had to talk Eric into making any acknowledgment of the achievement. 

“The most self-congratulating he would ever get was a small smile,” Karr wrote. “I loved those smiles.”

Nicholas Kanavos, another of Eric’s childhood friends, described Eric in the same private obituary as “truly a good man” and an exceptional friend. 

Once, after Kanavos had been in an accident while biking, Eric waited in the emergency room for hours to talk to Kanavos’ family or entertain him, and keep him “in high spirits” during his recovery period.

“Eric was always there for me,” Kanavos wrote, “when I needed it the most and when I didn’t even realize I needed it at all.”

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