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Details of undergrad’s death remain unknown

The University is working with Dawkins’ ’13.5 family to plan a memorial service for next month

Five days after Michael Dawkins ’13.5 was confirmed to have died in Peru, few details have emerged about the circumstances of his death.

Dawkins was not “taking part of any Brown-sponsored activity” while in Peru, and the University does not have any information about his travels, wrote Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, in an email to The Herald.

“The University was notified of the death of Michael Dawkins by members of his family,” Quinn wrote.

It could take weeks or even months for Peruvian authorities to confirm any details, said Erika Dawkins, Michael’s older sister.

Students and faculty members gathered in the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life Friday to commemorate Dawkins’ life with personal stories and recollections. The office is currently collaborating with Dawkins’ family to organize a service in his memory on campus in November, wrote Janet Cooper Nelson, University chaplain, in an email to The Herald.

Dawkins, a talented pianist, grew up in Baton Rouge, La., but spent time in the Northeast during high school working on his music and participating in the Pelham Music Festival in Pelham, N.Y., said Carrie Weiss, a Pelham Music Festival board member. Dawkins was involved with the festival as both a musician and a volunteer throughout high school and college, she added.

During his time with the festival, Dawkins performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, said Robert Eicher, president of the festival. Eicher added that Dawkins was an extremely curious and passionate student throughout his life, both with his academic studies and with his musical pursuits.

“There was just nothing he didn’t want to read about or learn about,” Weiss said. “Every exposure to intellectual argument or dialogue fascinated him.”

He honed his talents on the family piano, often waking his family up at 7 a.m. to the sounds of his music, Erika Dawkins said.

“He took up these very significant challenges,” Eicher said. “He wasn’t going to stop until he found the limits of what he wanted to know.”

Dawkins used to ride his bike to the public library in his town when he was about 8 years old to watch videos of famous pianists, Weiss said. These served as his “early inspiration.”

As he grew up, Dawkins discovered a new medium through which to communicate with people around the world, Erica Dawkins said — language. In high school, he began studying French, which he quickly mastered. By the time of his death, he spoke English, French and Arabic fluently and could communicate in Spanish and Hebrew.

Both Eicher and Weiss said Dawkins believed attending Brown was one of his best decisions.

“He knew that it was (the) school that would be the best place for him,” Weiss said. “He just felt that at Brown he could fit in, because everybody fits in at Brown.”

Following graduation, Dawkins was hoping to attend a conservatory where he could continue his music education, Weiss said. He had also been considering law school, Erika Dawkins said.

The Pelham community is planning a January memorial concert to coincide with what would have been Dawkins’ 24th birthday. Weiss said she hopes an announcement will also be made at that time about a scholarship fund being created in Dawkins’ memory.



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