Remembering his modesty, strong sense of camaraderie and unforgettable smile, the Cornell community celebrated the life of George Desdunes ’13 through a memorial service in a packed Sage Chapel on Wednesday afternoon.
Students shared memories and condolences in front of a group of mourners, who included Desdunes’ Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brothers, family and friends.
Justin Pacor ’13, one of Desdunes’ closest friends, spoke for the brotherhood of SAE.
“We are united not in grief, but in our shared memories of George,” Pacor said. “He touched my life in everyday ways, and I would like him to continue doing so.”
Pacor thanked the public for attending the service and said he considered himself blessed to have met Desdunes.
The most emotional moment of the service came when Sebastian Placide ’12, a life-long friend of Desdunes, offered his remarks to the public.
In his eulogy, Placide reminisced of childhood memories he shared with Desdunes and described how, despite being at the same university, they spent little time together because of their multiple academic and extracurricular responsibilities.
“We took for granted that we could hang out more,” Placide said. “If there’s one lesson I can share with you from this experience is to not take things for granted and always reach out for your friends and maintain communication with them.”
Nonetheless, Placide said he is “glad everyone had an accurate portrayal of George” and “it was a blessing to meet him.”
A number of University administrators and faculty also commented on the various aspects of Desdunes’s life while at Cornell.
Reverend Kenneth I. Clarke Sr., director of Cornell United Religious Work, provided remarks at the beginning of the service.
“We gather to affirm the virtues of this young man,” Clarke said. “George’s death, nonetheless, is a reminder of how terrible things can, and do happen every day.”
Dean of Students Kent L. Hubbell ’67 offered condolences on behalf of the University.
After learning much about Desdunes’ character and time at Cornell throughout the last week, Hubbell said he is sad to have not had the chance to meet him “now that I understand what a wonderful person he was.”
Hubbell described how Desdunes’ admissions essay into the University reflected his appreciation of camaraderie and friendship, which was widely mentioned by all of his personal acquaintances.
“[Desdunes] truly understood the importance of living in a community in which he was interdependent to others … he became, and will always be, a true Cornellian.”
Alan Mathios, dean of the College of Human Ecology, emphasized Desdunes’ drive to become a successful neurosurgeon and make a difference for other people’s lives.
“He had an appreciation for the simple things in life and was always modest,” Mathios said. Desdunes was a biology and society major in the College of Human Ecology.
Before closing the service, Rev. Clarke took the podium one last time and advised the public “to take your memories of George with you.”
Desdunes’ calling hours will be held in Brooklyn from 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursday. A bus sponsored by the College of Human Ecology will leave campus earlier that day and give interested students the opportunity to attend the services.