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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.

Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

15 Comments on A Life Open to Others Ends Too Soon

  • Kilachand Hall RHA on 03.18.2014 at 5:35 am

    Kilachand Hall RHA is hosting an event next Monday at 6:30 pm in Kilachand Hall’s 1st floor Study Lounge to honor and remember Diego. We will also be writing cards to his family so they can remember how lively and joyful Diego was. We would appreciate if all who are available can stop by to share their memories.

  • Andrea Kontos on 03.18.2014 at 9:41 am

    How sad. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this very trying time. RIP Diego.

  • Frances Lond-Caulk on 03.18.2014 at 9:45 am

    A very fitting tribute, what a shame it had to be written for such a nice and talented young chap. I’ve known Diego since he was a little boy, I was his teacher. He had so many talents, one of them was alway having a smile for anyone he encountered. It’s so sad that needless Mexican crime took it’s toll on Diego when he’d only just stopped living in his home country and city.

  • Rodrigo Cortes on 03.18.2014 at 10:20 am

    “Even the gorgeous royal chariots wear out; and indeed this body too wears out. But the teaching of goodness does not age; and so Goodness makes that known to the good ones.”

    Descansa en paz Diego, espero encuentres la respuesta a lo que busques.

    Om Mani Peme Hung

  • Sarah G. on 03.18.2014 at 12:41 pm

    I didn’t know you, but I wish I could have. The community has lost a special young man. Rest in peace, Diego.

  • Sylvia on 03.18.2014 at 1:22 pm

    Rest in peace. Your family are in my prayers.

  • H. Hamilton on 03.18.2014 at 2:26 pm

    What a terrible loss for not only the Boston University community, but the world community. Too often in this world, great minds are lost to senseless violence driven by the poverty that results from desperate circumstances. This is tragic loss should make our hearts heavy, but what’s more, it should open our eyes. As said in the article, Montes hoped to apply his knowledge in his home country to alleviate problems there. The best way to honor his memory and dreams is to carry them in our daily life, and integrate them into our own goals. As students of Boston University, residents of a great metropolitan center and members of the human race, it is up to us to carry on the legacy of this young man. While I never had the opportunity to meet Montes, my prayers and thoughts are with his family and friends, as I’m sure are those of the greater community.

  • Qiankun Zhao on 03.18.2014 at 3:03 pm

    RIP Diego.

  • Laura Zozaya on 03.18.2014 at 4:00 pm

    Lamento mucho que una vida tan joven termine y sobretodo por estas circunstancias. Le pido a Dios que les de fuerza y resignación a la Familia de Diego. Y estén tranquilos ya que criaron a un excelente ser humano. Descansa en Paz Diego.

  • Marie F on 03.18.2014 at 4:19 pm

    It seems like that boy did more in the span of his short life time, then most people would even thinking of doing in 50 years. My immense respects to his soul and drive, he left an important mark in the world. Truly an example to follow. His passing at such a young age will forever symbolize what he fought for until the end. My prayers and thoughts are with his family and friends. May he rest in Peace.

  • yang on 03.18.2014 at 4:45 pm


  • Federico Mele on 03.18.2014 at 5:43 pm

    I had the chance to meet Diego once over dinner. I was very touched by his character and was sure we would become good friends. I miss him dearly.

  • Claudia Alighieri on 03.19.2014 at 11:43 pm

    Knew his grandfather, I’m so sorry Gonzalo and Julian. May you find peace reading all this beautiful comments above. He is back home in the light!

  • Nicky on 03.20.2014 at 6:50 pm

    RIP. You and your family are in my prayers. We will miss u.

  • Luisa Montes on 03.23.2014 at 10:55 pm

    Thank you for wiritng such a wonderful article about my nephew, he was really a remarkable young man that has left us all with plently of teachings.

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