Thomas Lawrence ’21, an undergraduate from Minneapolis, Minnesota who was originally a member of the class of 2019, has died, Dean of Yale Marvin Chun announced in a campuswide email Tuesday afternoon. The death appeared to be a suicide, Chun wrote.
In an email to his college, Head of Jonathan Edwards Mark Saltzman wrote that Lawrence suffered from bipolar disorder and “struggled valiantly to live with the pain of his affliction.” Saltzman included a message from Lawrence’s family thanking members of the Yale community for their understanding. At the time of his demise, Lawrence was 22 years old. He was found dead by New Haven police in his off-campus apartment located at 205 Church St on the evening of Sept. 2.
“We are most grateful to Dean [Christina] Ferando, Head Saltzman, Master [Penelope] Laurens, Thomas’s fellow students, and the extended Yale community for their concern and thoughtful support of Thomas during his time at Yale,” the family wrote.
Chun wrote that New Haven Police Department informed Yale of Lawrence’s death and found “no evidence of foul play nor any indication of an accident.”
Aaron Tannenbaum ’19, one of Lawrence’s first-year suitemates, said that Lawrence was “a very kind suitemate and friend.”
“He was generous with his time and always spent as much of it as possible with those he cared about,” Tannenbaum said.
Over the past year, Saltzman said he had come to know Lawrence as a “delightful” student who was well-liked by his peers. Saltzman said the two frequently ran into each other on campus.
Near the end of last semester, Lawrence met with Saltzman to discuss “brain-machine interfaces” and how to replace or augment functions in the brain, a topic Saltzman was familiar with as a professor who studies chemical and biomedical engineering. Lawrence had encountered the topic in readings outside of class, Saltzman said, adding that he was “a very thoughtful young man.”
Saltzman hosted a gathering for JE students and other Yale community members in the college house on Tuesday evening.
In a statement to the News, University Chaplain Sharon Kugler wrote that this is a “painful time” for all those mourning “this horrible tragedy.” Chun wrote in his email that students should take this time to support each other and reach out to residential college administrators, first-year counselors and advisers, among others.
For some who did not know Lawrence, his death has sparked renewed discussions about mental health on campus. Chau Pham ’21 said mental health is a common issue among college students, adding that her best friend has attempted suicide.
“Receiving the email today hit me really hard, even though I don’t know Thomas,” she said.
Hang Nguyen ’21, who attended Tuesday night’s vigil, said a lot of students have trouble opening up about their struggles to authority figures, despite Yale’s best efforts.
“It’s important to talk about mental health,” she said. “It’s not always easy to come to these people who seem to have more power than you [and] be vulnerable.”
The Chaplain’s Office is open until 11 p.m. every day of the week for members of the Yale community. Mental health counselors are free to meet with students until 11 p.m. at the Yale Health Center at 55 Lock St., and are also available over telephone at all hours of the day and night at 203–432–0123.
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Editor’s note: The story has been updated to its latest version.