Princeton student Kevin Chang ’23 died near his home in Troy, Mich., on April 28 at the age of 19. Rockefeller College Dean Justine Levine remembered him as “a kind, generous, empathetic, caring member of our community” in an email to The Daily Princetonian.
He is survived by his father David Jo Kung Chang ’89 and his mother May Yen Chang.
Chang was a concentrator in chemical and biological engineering and was pursuing a certificate in environmental studies. He was studying remotely this spring.
A stellar student, Chang graduated summa cum laude from Detroit Country Day School in 2019 and conducted research on Chytrid aquatic fungal species at the University of Michigan in the summer before his senior year of high school.
With artist Anthony Lee, Chang authored a picture book titled “Save the Bees!” He sold over 100 copies and donated over $800 in profits to the Stage Nature Center of the Troy Nature Society.
Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan shared the news with undergraduate students via email on Wednesday evening.
“It is tragic when we lose a member of our community and it is especially so for those students and fellow college residents who have lost a treasured friend and colleague,” she wrote. “I realize this is particularly difficult news to hear and process in this year of so much loss and grief. Our deepest sympathy is with his family and those who knew Kevin personally.”
Shortly after Deignan’s email, the Rockefeller College Office Staff wrote to members of the college.
“By now you will have heard the devastating news that we have lost a beloved member of our Rocky community, Kevin Chang ’23,” they wrote. “Many of you knew Kevin well; this is a heartbreaking time for our community, and all of us in the Rocky college office share this sadness.”
“Our hearts go out to Kevin’s family, and to all who have lost a treasured friend. Please know that the Rocky staff is here for you to support you in any way that we can,” they continued.
A virtual memorial service was held over Zoom at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 28. Dean of Religious Life and of the Chapel Rev. Alison Boden hosted the event, which was attended by over 140 students, staff, and faculty members.
An in-person vigil took place at 5 p.m. on Thursday for students to gather and reflect.
Anna M. Shields, a professor of East Asian studies and chair of the department, taught Chang in her spring 2021 course EAS 232: Introduction to Chinese Literature, and remarked on Chang’s kindness that she observed in class.
“He was taking an intellectual risk by taking this course as a CBE major, and I really respected that in a student,” Shields said. “He seemed like a shy student among a lot of people who talked a lot, but he was incredibly sweet and just [had a] very gentle and warm personality.”
Shields also reflected upon Chang’s death from a personal perspective, as a parent.
“I’m also the mother of three boys, two of whom are in college,” she said. “I have seen how hard this year has been for college students on a very personal level and understand how students’ social networks have been so badly frayed, especially for those who are studying from home.”
Undergraduate Student Government President Christian Potter ’22 addressed Chang’s death in an email to undergraduates shortly before the Wednesday night memorial.
“I never knew Kevin personally. In fact, many of us might feel like strangers given the lack of opportunities to meet each other over the last fourteen months,” Potter wrote. “In that same time, countless members of the Princeton community have suffered from the pandemic, either personally or through the suffering of loved ones, and some have perished.”
“I am asking everyone to please take care of yourselves and use all the resources you need for your mental health,” he wrote. “Caring for yourself is a critical part of caring for the community.”
The ‘Prince’ will write a full-length obituary for Kevin in the weeks to come. If you would like to share any memories you have of Kevin with the ‘Prince,’ please reach out to Allan Shen at firstname.lastname@example.org.