Zachariah “Zach” Bolster Sc.M’23, a graduate student in cybersecurity, died in an accident on Aug. 27. A native of Cedar City, Utah, Zach is remembered fondly by his family and friends for his love of adventure and excitement for life.
“Our amazing son enjoyed the outdoors and extreme sports including skydiving, speed wing flying, scuba diving, dirt bikes, backcountry snowboarding and triathlons,” Zach’s mother, Sharon Bolster, wrote in an email to The Herald.
Zach stood out as a curious, outgoing student with a deep appreciation for nature, said Bernardo Palazzi, director of graduate studies for the Master of Science in Cybersecurity program.
“Zach was always coming to class from some remote areas in the open air with trees,” Palazzi recalled, standing out from the indoor Zoom backgrounds of other students. “It was a very particular meeting place for discussing code, and it stuck with me.”
“The cybersecurity program was fortunate to have Zach as a student,” said Ernesto Zaldivar, director of the Master of Science in Cybersecurity program. “He was so energetic and kind. Our community will miss him greatly.”
The Master of Science in Cybersecurity Program is a fully online degree program, so many of Zach’s professors and peers never met him in person, said Timothy Edgar, the program’s academic director for law and policy. Still, Zach’s loss has been felt throughout the program.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Zach in person, but I still felt like I got to know him,” Edgar said. “He was an outstanding individual with a very bright future.”
“We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of love from the Brown faculty and staff,” Sharon Bolster wrote.
At the time of his death, Zach had been certified in information systems security and was employed as the division manager for information systems and cybersecurity operations for the city of Lakewood, Colorado, Sharon Bolster wrote.
Prior to this, Zach served in the Navy for eight years, completing four regular deployments and four deployments by the Executive Orders for Naval Special Warfare Development Group, she added.
Zach was an IT1 specialist for Seal Team Six and a decorated combat war veteran. He received an Achievement Medal and Joint Service Commendation Medals for combat, Sharon Bolster noted.
Zach “found joy” through his Navy service, meeting his girlfriend of two years during his tenure.
At the University, Zach began on the computer science track of his master program but switched to the policy track after developing a strong interest in the policy implications of code, Palazzi said.
Both Edgar and Palazzi described Zach as positive and supportive in class. “For him, it wasn’t about showing how smart (he was) but helping (everyone) learn,” Edgar said. “That’s something I always look for in students.”
Zach’s life was an impactful one, Edgar said. He made a big difference through his military service, his interactions with fellow students and the ideas he presented to professors.
“Whether our lives are long or short, the important thing is that we have a positive impact,” he added. “Zach contributed, in the time he was with us, to his classmates, the class itself and to me.”
“Zach was very creative,” Palazzi said, adding that Zach was always able to offer a unique, original point of view on the topics they discussed in class. “Maybe it was because he was used to discussing in all that clean air.”