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Body of undergraduate found in Peru

Friends remembered Michael Dawkins’ ’13.5 warmth, musicality and community involvement

The body of Michael Dawkins ’13.5 has been found in Peru, said Leslie Goodman ’02, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Peru.

The circumstances surrounding Dawkins’ death remain unclear. He was seen on campus last week, but University officials and police officers could not confirm further details.

Dawkins, originally a member of the class of 2012, was born in Baton Rouge, La., and was concentrating in Middle East Studies, according to an email President Christina Paxson sent to the community Thursday evening.

As the news of his death emerged Thursday afternoon, Dawkins’ friends — from members of the Brown University Unitarian Universalist Group to fans of his classical piano playing — reacted with shock and devastation.

Amanda Labora ’13, a close friend of Dawkins who studied abroad in Egypt with him for a month before they were evacuated at the start of the 2011 revolution, recalled a “generous” friend.

“If you were one of Michael’s friends, he would do anything for you. He would go to bat for you,” she said.

Dawkins enjoyed discussing issues ranging from gender and sexual identity to the history and politics of the Middle East to the subtleties of classical music, she said. “If you asked him for his opinion, you better be ready for it,” Labora said.

Labora said that in Egypt, she hated that curfews and the threat of sexual assault required her to bring a male escort whenever she wanted to go outside. Dawkins was the only one “of the men on the trip who was really in tune with that and how humiliating that could be,” she said.

“Michael was my protector and my companion,” Labora said, adding, “he never made me have to ask.”

Because the two of them had taken a pledge to speak Arabic exclusively while abroad, a requirement of the Middlebury College study abroad program they were both enrolled in, Labora remembered “talking to each other about the implications of the revolution in broken Arabic over cappuccinos.”

After returning to campus following the evacuation, Dawkins tried to transition back into the normal academic routine but ultimately decided not to finish the semester, Labora said. He took an additional two semesters away from school before returning last fall.

Several students remembered Dawkins for his talent as a pianist, which earned him invitations to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Baxter DiFabrizio ’14.5, a piano player himself, said he met Dawkins through a mutual pianist friend.

“He often raved to me about Michael’s performances,” DiFabrizio said.

“I finally had the opportunity to hear him play this past spring” at a solo recital in Grant Recital Hall, he said. “He brought the house down with some of the hardest music ever written — Franz Liszt’s ‘Sonata in B minor’ and Maurice Ravel’s ‘Gaspard de la nuit.’”

DiFabrizio said he and Dawkins would spend hours together with friends. “I don’t even know what we’d talk about, but there was a warmth to it,” he said.

Labora said she thought Dawkins had been saving money to apply to a graduate program in music. “He had been preparing CDs and practicing really hard,” she said.

Dawkins attended BUUUG’s Sunday services most weeks during his time at Brown, sometimes lending a hand to the congregation with accompanying services on the piano.

“He was one of those people who when we stopped to chat for 30 seconds on the Main Green, he always seemed to really want to know how I was doing,” said Morgan Ivens ’12, who met Dawkins through BUUUG.

Dawkins was also a Residential Peer Leader and a member of the Finlandia Co-op.

Psychological Services and the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life will hold an event in Dawkins’ honor at 4 p.m. today in room 411 of J. Walter Wilson, Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, wrote in an email to The Herald.

“We have conveyed our deepest condolences to Michael’s family, and our thoughts and sympathy will remain with them throughout this most difficult time,” Paxson wrote in her email to the community.

University officials did not return requests for further comment.


A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn confirmed the body to have been found. In fact, she has declined to comment. An updated version of this article misidentified a group Michael Dawkins was involved with as the Brown University Unitarian Universalist Church. In fact, the organization is called the Brown University Unitarian Universalist Group.

Last updated Oct. 25, 3:00 a.m.


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