Wook Choe, a Saybrook College junior, passed away Nov. 18 after a long battle with terminal illness, Saybrook Master Mary Miller and Dean Paul McKinley said Monday night in an e-mail to college residents.
Miller and McKinley said Choe was with family at the time of his death, having returned home to Korea shortly before Thanksgiving break. Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said he remembers Choe for his courage and tenacity.
“He’s a student who was very brave in the way he dealt with such serious illness while maintaining his work as a student for as long as he possibly could and his friendships in Saybrook,” he said.
Details regarding Choe’s illness have not been released publicly out of respect for family privacy, but his love for Saybrook and Yale was no secret, she said.
“His father says of Wook that he was proud of being a Yale student and loved his friends at Saybrook College, and that his thoughts were with them until his last moments,” Miller said in the e-mail.
While some students in Saybrook said they knew that Choe had been ill for several months, his death still came as a shock.
Sarah Newman ’07, who described herself as one of Choe’s closest friends in Saybrook, said Choe e-mailed her two weeks before his death telling her that he was going to Korea to spend time with his family. In the e-mail, she said, he was upbeat about his condition and said that he would “see her soon.”
But Newman said she later found out that Choe knew his condition was deteriorating and that he was trying to maintain a positive outlook for the sake of his friends.
“He told his best friend that he was getting sicker, but he didn’t want to worry all of us,” she said.
Miller said in an interview that Choe, an anime buff and active member of the Yale Anime Society, took “demanding” science courses while at Yale. But even with a challenging course load, he remained an active member of the Saybrook community, Miller said, noting that one of her fondest memories was playing Pictionary with Choe at last year’s Thanksgiving dinner.
“He was so quiet, but he really was involved with the game, and his sense of humor really came through,” she said. “It’s memories like those that I am grateful to have and will never forget.”
Newman, too, said she will never forget the small steps Choe took to show his friends that he cared.
“Out of all my friends, he was the only one who remembered everyone’s birthday and always remembered to buy his friends gifts,” she said.
Miller said she plans to hold a small memorial for Choe’s close friends early next semester. She said she will be seeking the input of those who knew Choe in planning the memorial.