A Life Open to Others Ends Too Soon
BU mourns freshman Diego Fernandez Montes
He entered BU just last fall, but Diego Fernandez Montes (CAS’17) had a whirlwind schedule befitting a campus veteran. Treasurer of his residence hall association and of the Mexican student group Mexas@BU, he often cast his gaze to the troubles of others, from the economic and violence problems in his own country to those in Venezuela, home to several friends.
“I kept going to war with him over that,” recalls his father, Julian Fernandez. “I told him, ‘First year in school, you can’t get kicked out over the grades, kid. Don’t overextend yourself.’” Montes was planning to major in economics and math, his father says, and at some point return home to apply his knowledge in his country.
Last Thursday, during spring break, Montes was killed in a robbery while taking a taxi in his home of Mexico City. His funeral Sunday drew family and friends from several countries; many of those friends were BU students.
Even before classes resumed yesterday, campus memorials sprouted as the news reached Boston. A weekend prayer vigil at Marsh Chapel drew more than 50 students, and a Mass of remembrance was celebrated for him at the Catholic Center. Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore (SED’87) will discuss a future campus memorial with Fernandez later this week. Details will be posted on BU Today once they are finalized.
Ironically, it was Boston and BU that spawned Montes’ passion about the needs of his home country, says Chiraag Sudhir Devani (CAS’16, ENG’16), one of his roommates. “We both come from countries where you see a lot of poverty,” says Devani, a native of Kenya. When Montes titled an essay he was writing “I’m Not an Ostrich,” Devani chuckled—until he read it. The composition detailed how earlier in his life, Montes had avoided a hard look at the social woes around him, but had come to realize that solving such issues was more important than the materialistic concerns—clothes, cars, vacations—that so consumed many of his peers.
“Everything you take for granted in life is completely different when you change countries,” says Devani. “Diego loved Boston, the city. He loved the school. It was just the perfect location for him to become what he wanted to be.” Agrees Paola Peynetti Velazquez (CAS’15), president of Mexas@BU, “He loved our community, and he had a fascinated interest in life’s questions.”
Brent Jiang (SMG’17), another roommate, says Montes had recently fallen in love with photography. Braving this winter’s brutal chill, says Jiang, Montes would grab camera and tripod and “walk in the wind and cold to far places in the city just to take pictures.”
Elmore says Montes made a tremendous impact in a very short time on those who knew him: “We are thankful we had an opportunity to have him here with us. We are also sad. We are sad when we lose a member of our family.” He encourages students, faculty, and staff to avail themselves of campus grief counseling (see below).
Two weeks before his death, Montes sent his father a note just before turning in to sleep. As Fernandez recalls, it said, “Dad, I am very thankful for how you’re the best dad there is, and thankful for how hard you work and you push your family to be better.”
“In reality,” his father says, “I’m very much at peace, because Diego was at peace. He was at peace with everyone. He didn’t have any qualms, any regrets. If you asked me if I knew anybody who was spiritually prepared to take off from this world, it was Diego.”
Counseling is available through the Dean of Students Office, 617-353-4126; from Marsh Chapel chaplains, 617-353-3560; at Student Health Services, 617-353-3575 for counselors and 617-353-3569 for a behavioral medicine provider; and at the Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center (SARP), 617-353-7277. The Faculty & Staff Assistance Office, 617-353-5381, is available to provide confidential counseling to faculty, staff, and their families. A drop-in group counseling session will be available at SARP, 930 Commonwealth Ave., Wednesday, March 19, from 10 to 11 a.m.15 Comments