Joshua Chang ’17, an undergraduate from Canton, Georgia, died in a car accident near his home on Saturday morning. Chang was 21 years old.
In a community-wide email Tuesday afternoon, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway extended sympathy to Chang’s family and friends. Two other Yale students — Hale Ross ’18 and Rae Na Lee ’19 — have also died in the last month.
Chang — a senior in Saybrook College — was a popular member of Yale’s cycling team, described by teammates as a helpful, enthusiastic friend and dedicated equipment manager who once constructed his own bike out of bamboo. He planned to double major in mechanical engineering and economics.
Chang also built and designed cars for Bulldogs Racing, the Yale chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers. Joseph Zinter — an associate research scientist at Yale who worked with Chang at Bulldogs Racing and the Center for Engineering, Innovation & Design — said Chang’s “enthusiasm was contagious and his smile lit up the room.”
“He was the spark that moved things along when the team was stuck, and the type of person that was always there to help others,” Zinter said.
In interviews with the News, members of the cycling team praised Chang’s commitment and generosity, as well as his engineering skills.
Brian Drollette GRD ’20, a friend from the team, said Chang was a warm, helpful teammate who enjoyed tinkering with bikes.
“It was always fun to see his latest project because it was usually pieces from 10 different bikes put together to make a crazy one,” Drollette said. “That was probably the engineer in him.”
In high school, Chang used bamboo and carbon fiber to construct a bicycle from scratch, sanding each piece himself and heat-treating the bamboo in his own oven. He continued that project at the CEID during his freshman year at Yale.
Alex Bruch GRD ’20 — a fellow engineering student who liked to “nerd out” with his old teammate as they rode together — said Chang ran a side business selling repaired bike parts on eBay. Bruch added that he recently traded bike seats with Chang, and that now “every time I sit on my bike I’m going to be connected to Josh.”
Elizabeth Eldridge SPH ’17, another teammate, said Chang’s enthusiasm stood out during a grueling training camp in North Carolina last spring.
“He kept a smile on his face the entire week, even as we biked to the top of Mt. Mitchell,” she said, referring to the highest peak in the Appalachian Mountains.
Samantha Andrade ’19 said she met Chang for the first time last year at a holiday party for the cycling team. He brought a multi-tool bike kit in the shape of a llama as part of the team’s gift exchange, she said.
“Every cyclist needs a multi-tool, and his gift was so thoughtful even though he didn’t know who would eventually receive the gift,” Andrade said. “Like his gift, he was always dependable and reliable like the tool but cheerful, happy, and always smiling like that llama.”
Outside the cycling team, Chang was known to his peers in Saybrook as a steadfast friend with a good sense of humor. Carmen Baskauf ’17 — who described herself as Chang’s “unofficial housemate” — said he was always kind and affectionate with his friends.
“Whether it was helping me with my bike, giving everyone surprise Christmas gifts, fixing my computer more times than I can count, attending every performance or concert our friends were in, or just passing along a country artist he thought I might like, Josh was always a caring and thoughtful friend,” Bauskauf said.
She added that Chang was also known for pulling practical jokes, and that he once covered his housemate’s room with postage stickers.
Chang’s funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23, at Sosebee Funeral Home in Canton. In his email, Near said Saybrook will hold a community gathering to honor Chang sometime after Thanksgiving break.
Yale Mental Health and Counseling staff are available at 55 Lock St. or by phone at (203) 432-0123. The Chaplain’s Office is open until 11 p.m. on weekday nights.