Chester Lam ‘19 of Morganville, N.J. was a loyal, caring, and funny, though quiet, friend to those who knew him well.
Lam was a B.S.E. computer science concentrator who loved studying music and playing the piano. He often played classical music, but liked jazz, and even composed some of his own pieces. He also enjoyed video games, from the strategy-based to "Super Smash Bros.," reading, the television drama "Breaking Bad," and telling jokes.
He passed away in a New York City hospital on Jan. 12. He was 20 years old.
According to an email sent to undergraduates by Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan on Jan. 13, Lam’s death was ruled a suicide.
Ananya Joshi '19, Lam’s close friend since childhood and a fellow computer science major, said that Lam was “a loyal friend” who was “always open to listening and treated everyone with respect.”
“My favorite memory of Chester was when Mario [Liu '19], Chester, and I trekked down to Lake Carnegie on a Friday at sunset,” said Joshi. She added that Canadian geese upset their plans to picnic by the lake by eating all the fruit they brought, but despite this, the three friends stayed to talk and watch the sunset together.
His friends remember him as principled, hardworking, and kind, with a quick wit and an enduring love of learning.
Liu was also close to Lam since childhood. He described Lam as “wise beyond his years” and someone who supported those around him.
In a joint statement, Liu and Joshi wrote “Chester was very loving and very well loved. He will be missed.”
Amber Lin ‘19 met Chester through mutual friends during her first year.
“To me, Chester's most memorable quality was his refreshing sense of humor,” she said. “At the meals we had together, he would never be afraid to break through social pretense and say what everyone else was thinking, in a way that would make everyone else at the table laugh, but also reflect.”
Lam was a graduate of the High Technology High School, a magnet school in Lincroft, N.J. On campus, Lam was a member of Wilson College.
Besides computer science, Lam enjoyed studying technology, physics, and engineering, with specific interests in machine learning and app development. Classmates interviewed said he had a philosophical, detail-oriented approach to academics.
Lam’s direct first year roommate, Isaac Martinez '19, remembers him as someone who would never hesitate to help a friend in need, whether that meant taking care of a roommate who had overindulged at a pregame, or talking through computer science concepts with a struggling classmate.
Daniel Petticord '19, one of Lam’s first year suitemates, said that Lam was one of the first people he got to know on campus.
“He was a really good guy. I don’t think he had a malicious bone in his body,” said Petticord, “Even though he didn’t talk a lot, he had a dry wit, he was very funny.”
Petticord added that one of his favorite memories of Lam took place at the end of their first year, when they said goodbye before going home for the summer. “He quoted Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,” continued Petticord, “‘So long and thanks for all the fish.’”
Lam was preceded in death by his mother. He is survived by his father and brother. Lam's family could not be reached for comment.
No memorial service has been planned.
Editor’s Note: If you need to talk to someone, please refer to:
- Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS): Call (609) 258-3141; for emergencies: (609) 258-3333. An on-call counselor is available every day after hours.)
- CONTACT of Mercer County: Call (609) 896-2120 or (609) 585-2244.
- Princeton Peer Nightline: Call (609) 258-0279; visit http://princetonpeernightline.com, open Tuesdays and Fridays 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1 (800) 273-8255.