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Celebrating an alumnus

image: Departments headerOfficial obituaries are necessarily short, a dry telling of facts. But the death of a very young alumnus is an overwhelming tragedy. I wanted to celebrate his life. This, then, is not an obituary but a tribute to Matthew Valenta, AB'98 ("Deaths," February/00).

Matt left us in July 1999, but those who knew him at the University of Chicago and beyond will never forget him. A physics major, academics were of paramount importance to Matt. He was passionate about his science, and was a dedicated worker in a high-energy physics lab for most of his College career. After graduation in 1998, he moved to Seattle to continue his studies in the biophysics and physiology Ph.D. program at the University of Washington.

Chamberlin House in Burton-Judson was Matt's home for all four of his years at Chicago. He was active in his house and in his University, serving at times as house president and Chamberlin's representative to House Council. Matt was unfailingly generous with his time and friendship, and made an effort every year to get to know new members of the house and to make them feel welcome. Always one with strong opinions, he never hesitated to back them up with action. Many of us remember the zeal with which he lobbied for 100-percent juice in the cafeteria after it was removed. He didn't drop the issue when he was brushed off, but kept meeting with ARA officials for weeks until they caved and reinstated the juice.

Matt had an astounding knowledge of current music and a desire to share his favorites with his friends. He had an insatiable thirst to learn and a drive to achieve. In the spirit of Chicago, he was a terrific debater. He often played the devil's advocate to force us to solidify and support our positions. He cared intensely about many issues, and conversations with him were fascinating explorations of everything from religion to scientific ethics. I am a better person for having known him. Matt touched everyone he knew; he is deeply missed by us all.

Jessy D. Dorn, AB'98
Los Angeles

  APRIL 2000

  > > Volume 92, Number 4

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Good guys finish first
  > >
Edward Hirsch Levi
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U of C Folk Festival
  > >
The prophetic art

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