Zachary Brunt ’15, described by friends as a curious, outgoing musician and scientist, died Wednesday. He was 19.
Brunt’s body was found early Wednesday afternoon in Gibbs Laboratories on Science Hill, and his death has been termed an apparent suicide. Known for his long, blond curly hair, Brunt was an active member of Davenport College and an aspiring engineer from Alexandria, Va. Brunt’s friends said he had an upbeat character and the ability to connect with a diverse group of students.
“Zach was the most caring, fun, easygoing individual I have met on Yale’s campus,” said Lincoln Mitchell ’15, a fellow member of Davenport who considered Brunt an honorary suitemate. “He seriously had no social fears about anything. The first night I met him, he came into our room telling hilarious stories about his life, his childhood, his upbringing and his hopes for Yale.”
Brunt came to Yale last fall after graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. A member of the Yale Drop Team, Brunt was scheduled to take a flight today to Houston, Texas, and take part in a zero-gravity experiment. The team was planning to test how zero gravity would affect metal surface tension screens, and Brunt had spent many hours preparing for the trip, his friends said.
“If there was one guy [about whom] I would say, ‘Yeah, he was in zero gravity for four days at NASA,’ it would be Zach Brunt,” said Ruchit Nagar ’15, Brunt’s close friend in Davenport.
Joe O’Rourke ’12, last semester’s co-president of the Drop Team, said Brunt’s work on the project’s electrical system was “invaluable,” noting that the project had been progressing far more smoothly than in previous years. The Drop Team canceled its Houston trip in the wake of the tragedy.
In addition to his scientific pursuits, Brunt also played both electric and acoustic guitar in a group called “Honest Liars” with four other freshmen. The band played casual covers of “Hindi-English fusion” music, said Nagar, who is also a member of the group. He added that the band had just begun recording its first song, and that Brunt played his part “exceedingly well.”
Constantly exploring and trying new things throughout his life, Brunt began teaching himself Russian as a child, competed in Yale’s Iron Chef competition in February and developed an encyclopedic knowledge of trivia, his friends said.
Other students said they will remember Brunt for his offbeat sense of humor and wild blond hair, which he insisted on leaving long despite jokes that he should cut it.
“We always joked about him wearing hair nets [during Iron Chef] because of his huge ’fro,” said Julie Leong ’15, who competed on Brunt’s team in Iron Chef. “Instead he put on a bandanna, so he looked like a pirate instead.”
Several of Brunt’s friends fondly recalled spending time with him this past Sunday outside Welch Hall, the dormitory for Davenport freshmen. Late that night, Brunt had pulled a bench underneath the lamplight and was working on his Russian homework. Students gathered around Brunt, talking and laughing into the early hours of the morning, Fabian Fernandez ’15 said, adding that Brunt’s “glowing personality” could attract all types of people.
Nagar said everyone else had gone to bed by the time he arrived, but that Brunt was still working.
“I asked him why he was studying outside and he said, ‘Well, it’s a great night isn’t it?’” Nagar said.
Reached Wednesday night, Brunt’s father Charles recalled his son’s creativity, passion for music and “fun-loving” personality.
“I have 19 years’ worth of memories,” he said.
Brunt’s friends plan to wear neon colors and bright orange today in memory of his passing. A University-wide memorial vigil will be held in Davenport’s upper courtyard at 8 p.m.