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Victor Chang '16 remembered for 'unbiased love'

Brothers, mother, friends recall Chang's faith, poetry

In the week since the death of Victor Yoon Chul Chang ’16, it seemed that echoes of his hearty laugh can still be heard across campus.

“If something made him chuckle and he was on the other side of the house, it would echo throughout the entire house,” said Greg Chang, Victor’s brother.

Victor, who died May 15, is remembered for his fun-loving sense of humor by his two older brothers, Greg and Daniel Chang ’12. He is survived by his siblings and his mother, Sung Hee Chang.

On campus, Victor could most often be found at the Gate, where he worked as a supervisor with BuDS and took a liking to the pizza.

“Your heart is almost as large as the sheer volume of food you can take in a single bite. Which is an impressive amount,” one student wrote of Victor on the Facebook page Brown University Compliments.

Victor studied psychology at Brown, but he always made sure to make time for his friends, Greg said. “He didn’t stay up late studying, but he did stay up late to talk to friends.”

His dedication to his friends was apparent to all. One year, Victor agreed to write a haiku for every person who liked a status he had posted on Facebook. The post resulted in hundreds of heartfelt poems individually crafted for each of his friends.

“Through you, I witnessed faithful friendship,” wrote one friend of Victor’s in a blog post. “I witnessed unbiased love and care.”

Victor reached out to several friends when they found themselves in dark times. A few of the people whom he touched during his life came forward during his memorial service at the Chamsarang Korean Methodist Church in Hempstead, New York May 19 to share with Victor’s family the lasting impact that Victor’s words had instilled in them.

“He made me feel like a person,” Daniel recalled one girl saying of Victor.

“Victor was always there … so giving of his entire self …  in a way that is a lot like our dad,” Greg said.

Victor’s father, Brian Chang, died in June 2012 of liver cancer. Though always the person in whom others found solace, that year Victor found himself reaching out to his friends for support through prayer.

The death of his father resonated with Victor. He initially went back to school that fall but then decided to take a medical leave for the semester to confront his depression.

During the year that followed, Victor immersed himself in positive thoughts; on his blog on Tumblr he kept a daily log of moments he was thankful for in his life. His first of that year: “I’m thankful for being able to start a year anew, hopefully moving forward from an — unfortunately — eventful 2012.”

Often the thoughts he posted centered on his friends and family. “I’m thankful that I’m able to take part in the happiness of friends,” he wrote Jan. 15, 2013. And on Jan. 19: “I am thankful to have a brother willing to drive me back to school.”

Others were lighter in nature. “I’m thankful for good eats suggestions!” he posted Jan. 7, referring to a food blog he kept on which he shared pictures of special meals he had eaten throughout the year. A pizza from the Gate, of course, made it on the blog.

Victor was not only prolific in his food photography, but also in his poetry, where he showed a more vulnerable side of himself.

“Your kindness, your love, your laughter — everything about you — will always be engraved in our hearts,” wrote a friend, Brettany Tu, on her blog.

As much earnest warmth as Victor offered, he revelled equally in moments of goofiness and fun, starting from childhood.

When he was five or six, Victor “pulled out a raw egg from the fridge and decided he wanted to hatch it,” Daniel said. He sat on it and the egg exploded, ruining the chair he had claimed as his nest.

The brothers spent their afternoons playing in the local schoolyard. Greg and Daniel remember lifting up their youngest brother to catch the frisbees that would soar over their heads.

Victor’s love of frisbee carried forward to high school. On warm summer nights, he would call up friends late at night, inviting them to play frisbee games underneath the stars.

While many of the brothers’ interests remained the same, time allowed them to grow their own individual passions. As Victor’s family became less involved with church, Victor boldly stuck to his religion, even when entering Brown, a place where proclaiming religious faith was not always the easiest, his brothers said.

His family’s Korean origins remained an important part of Victor’s identity — while he grew up in a bilingual household, as the last child, Victor was immersed more in English than his two older brothers, and he lost the language more quickly. At Brown he sought to amend that, taking Korean classes and joining the Korean-American Student Association. He was the only of his siblings to pursue an interest in K-Pop — he discussed the bright, bubbly music with the only other fan in their family: his mother.

Victor was “big on games and puzzles,” said Greg, noting his brother’s ability to solve a Rubik’s cube in record time. He even wrote his Brown admission essay on Tetris.

His brothers were unsure of Victor’s post-graduation plans, but they found some Teach for America documents with Victor’s belongings. Had he become a teacher, he would have been the fourth in a long line of teachers in his family — Greg, Daniel and his mother are all teachers, as well as his grandfather in Korea.

Victor was cremated at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, and a memorial service was held in Hempstead, NY, near his hometown of Valley Stream, NY. The family asks that in lieu of sending donations, those thinking of his family donate to Save the Children, the Treatment Advocacy Center, the Cancer Research Institute and the University, specifically the Chaplain's Emergency Relief Fund.

With the donations they have already received, Victor’s family hopes to plant a tree on campus to commemorate Victor’s life and the impact the University had on Victor and his family, Greg said.


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