Andrew Louis Liotta ’10, an avid photographer, social activist and active member of the Trumbull College community, died at his San Francisco home last Friday, March 14. He was 21.
The cause of Liotta’s death is unknown. His mother, Rita Liotta, said he had “no apparent health problems.”
Doctors said Liotta died peacefully in his sleep and, according to his mother, did not feel any pain. An autopsy was performed last Monday, she said, but results will not be available for several weeks.
A gathering to “remember and honor” Liotta will be held in the Trumbull Buttery at 9 p.m. Thursday night, Master Janet Henrich said.
Liotta, celebrated his birthday March 7, was often noticed for his wry sense of humor, and his friends say he never failed to make light of difficult situations. In fact, friends remember a “memorable” and “truly unique” smile — one that was entirely reflective of the sophomore to whom that it belonged.
“He was the perfect person to talk to when you’re overwhelmed with everything, because he’d sit and make fun of the world with you,” said Liotta’s high-school friend Annie Lee.
At St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco Liotta could be spotted in the hallway carrying his oversized, stuffed-to-the-brim backpack — “the black hole,” as friend Agnes Lee called it — and racing to his next class. He often had his camera bag slung around his shoulder — even at the dinner table. He was known for sporting beanies and, on occasion, banana-colored shoes.
As a coxswain on the school’s crew team, Liotta steered St. Ignatius to a third-place finish at the Junior National Championships in 2004 and a first-place finish in 2005.
He was the founder and co-president of a film club, a member of the mixed choir and even found time to start the “Music For Others” club — a volunteer group that organized student musical performances at various convalescent homes in the Bay Area.
Liotta was accepted early to Yale, where he was originally a member of the class of 2009. After deferring enrollment for a year after his freshman year, he returned to Yale last summer, before he traveled to Italy to study the language with the Yale Summer Session.
Last fall, he declared as a psychology major. He was particularly intrigued by neural psychology, his mother explained, and intended to go to medical school.
“He wanted to serve others,” Rita Liotta wrote in an e-mail.
In fact, friend’s say, Liotta’s focus was always on giving. At Yale, he worked with the Yale Community Health Educators, an outreach program targeting New Haven high and middle schools, and the National Student Partnership, a volunteer group that helps individuals in the community find jobs and become self-sufficient.
And, time and again, he was quick to take up — and fight for — causes that made him passionate. When the city of San Francisco approved the construction of a Starbucks and a UPS store within the bounds of Japantown in 2005, for example, Liotta went out and protested outside City Hall.
“He was a very conscientious person,” remembered Christina Jones, another high-school friend. “He wasn’t an intellectual who just hid himself behind books. He wanted to go out and change things.”
But Liotta was also known for his involvement in the Trumbull community, which his mother said he “loved very much.”
Trumbull students frequently received e-mails and news updates this year from Liotta in his capacity as publicity manager for the Trumbull College Council. He also spent time working at the Trumbull buttery and was planning to take over as its manager next year.
“No matter how busy he was, he was the type of friend that would drop everything and come and talk to you if you were upset or needed something,” fellow Trumbull resident Jessica Becker ’09 said.
At the News, where Liotta was a staff photographer, he was calm and collected. Try as they did, the editors of the News’ photography desk could not dig up embarrassing stories about Liotta from his suitemates to share at his staff induction ceremony last December.
At the last minute, photography editor Han Xu ’09 recounted, the editors told Liotta to perform a handstand on the boardroom table at 202 York St. Heartily, he obliged.
“He almost got it,” Xu said. “But we made him stop because we didn’t want him to fall.”
Armed with the permanent fixture that was his camera, his friends say he was, far and away, the photographer of the group. He constantly managed to capture his friends’ faces — and all their memories.
“Now,” Jones said, “we wish that we were the ones taking pictures of him.”
A visitation and rosary will be held today at 6 p.m. at the Church of St. Ignatius in San Francisco. The funeral will take place there tomorrow, March 25, at 10 a.m.
Andrew Liotta is survived by his mother, Rita, and his sister, Melissa Liotta, who is a senior at St. Ignatius.