Justin Lim ’25, a first-year in the Operations Research and Financial Engineering department and compassionate son and brother died on May 17 at his home in Chicago, Ill. after battling mental illness. He was 19 years old.
Lim was born in Chicago on Dec. 28, 2002 to parents Peggy and Yung Bong Lim ’87. He grew up with his brother Jake Lim ’23, and the two were inseparable from a young age.
“Jake was Justin’s best friend and his rock. Justin called him the best brother in the world, and all who knew him knew how true this is,” said Justin’s mother at a memorial service organized by the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, which Lim had attended since he was three years old.
“I remember Justin as a happy, smiling child. He was a good sleeper, he was a good eater, and he could play for hours with his legos,” his mother said.
Lim was always a high-achiever — “so much so that he came six weeks early,” quipped his mother at the service — and excelled in tennis as much as he did in school.
“Outside of academics, tennis was his biggest passion, and he poured his heart and soul into being the best player he could be. He would wake up at the crack of dawn to play and improve, whether it was in preparation for a match or just to practice his strokes,” said his family in a statement to The Daily Princetonian.
Lim was a generous teammate and offered compassion and his quick-witted humor to the other tennis players at his high school. Yaseen Qureshi, one of Lim’s teammates and a junior at the Laboratory schools, recalled Lim’s spirited nature.
“A distinct memory comes to mind when we practiced during the summers. Every time Mr. or Mrs. Lim would wait outside the courts, Justin would walk towards them with his arms wide open, and they would start running in the opposite direction out of fear of receiving a bear hug from the sweatiest teenager in the world,” Qureshi said at the funeral service.
His family told the ‘Prince’ that as co-captain of his high school’s tennis team, Lim “encouraged his teammates to run laps at the pace of the slowest member.”
As Lim’s mother recalled at the service, he was not only a devoted player, but also a fervent spectator of the game, particularly fond of watching Roger Federer. Over the years, he developed a photographic recollection of a wide array of statistics.
“He could recall scores, opponents, seedings, and even specific outfits players wore at tournaments, dating back at least a decade,” his family told the ‘Prince.’ “We often quizzed him, but, despite our best efforts, we could never stump him.”
According to Lim’s family he was always “intellectually curious,” ever questioning the world around him. From this curiosity grew an intellectual tenacity that brought him to Princeton, like his father and brother before him.
“He was thrilled to attend Princeton and share the Tiger experience with his brother and father. In one celebratory dinner with some Princeton families, he walked around the room draped with a Class of 2025 banner,” his family said.
The two brothers would often run into each other at Princeton, with Justin giving Jake a “hard high-five” while continuing on his way to class.
“Although his favorite color was yellow growing up, once he got into Princeton, he often wore orange and black,” Lim’s family said.
According to his family, “Justin had issues with anxiety throughout much of his life” and “his anxiety level increased substantially just before entering Princeton, and he developed an eating disorder.” Still, “he fought hard to get through his first year, focusing his time mostly on his academics, but he decided in April to take a gap year.”
“As a family, we wish that the Princeton community could have seen more of what Justin was like before college — bright, witty, dedicated, empathetic, and compassionate,” his family told the ‘Prince.’
“We hope that, by sharing about Justin’s struggles and passing due to his mental illness, others will be more willing to be open about, and seek help for, their own mental health challenges.”
At the funeral service, his mother recited Philippians 4:6, a Bible verse that she said comforted Lim.
“Do not be anxious about anything. But in everything, every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Lim, a member of Mathey College, left an indelible mark on the campus community. Madison Esposito ’23, who served as his Residential College Advisor, recounted their first meeting.
“I remember our fall semester one-on-one meeting fondly — we sat in the Blair courtyard on a sunny day, and he talked about his love for tennis and answered countless questions that I had about Chicago,” she told the ‘Prince.’
“I admired that Justin asked for help when he needed it. No matter the situation or the question he had, I knew that Justin would reach out to me if he needed to, and he would always express his gratitude even when thanks were truly unnecessary,” Esposito added.
Lim is also remembered as an integral part of his Community Action orientation group. Gabriel Robare ’24, one of his group leaders, described him as “a kind, decent, and sharp young man.”
Robare is the head puzzles editor for the ‘Prince.’
On campus, Lim joined the Scholars of Finance (SOF), drawn to the club as a way to “combine his interest in finance and ethics,” his family said.
Nishant Singhal ’23, the co-founder of the Princeton chapter of the club, described the impression Lim had on him.
“Justin was an intensely analytical, profoundly creative, and fiercely dedicated member of our community,” he told the ‘Prince.’ “While he is no longer with us, we will forever remember the impact and courage he spread not only at SOF but also in Princeton at large.”
Lim’s intelligence and lively spirit were noted in Princeton’s classrooms as well. “He was always sharp and asking questions,” said Brandon Cheng ’25, Lim’s partner for COS 126 assignments. Cheng shared that Lim “caught numerous bugs that [he’d] written, while keeping things light with a joke or two. That’s just who he is — intensely curious but also sneakily funny.”
Lim was indeed known for his humor, and over the years, his father would write down many of his remarks, terming them “Justinisms.” His mother shared a few at the funeral service.
“I can do push-ups, going down is easy, it’s just going back up that’s hard,” was one wisecrack.
“I chuckled when he said these things, but now I hold on to them dearly, with a longing smile, every time I think of them,” his mother said.
Lim approached life with a steadfast optimism — “when Justin loved something, he was all in,” his family told the ‘Prince’ — and with this attitude developed his bright demeanor, admired and appreciated by his family and friends.
“I will always remember his smile and his beautiful round face, reminding me of a happy sun,” his mother said at the service.
“I hope you too will carry this image of him in your hearts as you leave today. Please take care of yourself and each other.”
Lim is survived by his father Yung Bong ’87, his mother Peggy, and his brother Jake ’23.
The Justin Se Geun Lim ’21 Memorial Fund at the Laboratory Schools and the Justin Se Geun Lim ’25 Memorial Fund at Princeton have been created in Lim’s memory.
Sandeep Mangat is an Associate News Editor who has reported on labor shortages on and off campus, University guidelines regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, international student life, and research led by Princeton faculty. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @s_smangat.
Annie Rupertus is a first-year from Philadelphia and a News Staff Writer who covers USG for the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @annierupertus on Instagram and Twitter.