This is the second in a series of obituaries on the three Boston University students killed in a tragic car accident while studying abroad in New Zealand.
To friends and professors of Austin Brashears, a junior in Boston University’s College of Engineering who embraced school and served as a president of the BU men’s club water polo team, he was an adventurous traveler and a promising engineer.
“He was just an adventurer,” said Sage Russo, a San Francisco State University junior who met Brashears in ninth grade. “He just wanted to go out and live life to its absolute fullest.”
Brashears, 21, was one of three BU students who died in a car crash in Taupo, New Zealand, a place College of Arts and Sciences junior Tori Pinheiro said he had always dreamed of visiting.
“He loved traveling everywhere,” Pinheiro, Brashears’s close friend and former girlfriend, said. “His dream was to go to New Zealand. He has been talking about New Zealand since the day I met him.”
Brashears, from Huntington Beach, Calif., majored in mechanical engineering, with a minor in energy technologies and environmental engineering.
He was fascinated with alternative power sources, including geothermal and wind, and avidly researched the energy policies and technologies of other countries, Pinheiro said.
“He was the smartest kid I’ve ever met,” she said. “I’ve never met [someone] so well informed about so many topics. He was an amazing engineer but he knew a little bit about everything.”
Pinheiro said she met Brashears on her first day at BU orientation. They immediately clicked as friends and did everything together, she said.
Pinheiro would always do laundry in Warren Towers with Brashears, who would “accidentally” throw a t-shirt in her laundry, she said, creating an excuse to see her later.
Sargent College of Health and Rehabiliation Sciences first-year graduate student Jeremy Butz, a teammate on the water polo team, said in an email that Brashears embraced all of his teammates.
“As well as being an extremely gifted and hardworking player, Austin was the most passionate teammate I have ever played with,” he said. “He was our team’s spark, never lacked a motivational speech, and always led by example.”
Russo said she witnessed Brashears’s popularity after she set up a Facebook page to raise funds in order to fly him back to the United States for a burial.
Within 24 hours, the page had more than 850 attendees.
“I knew that Austin would be the kind of person that would elicit this type of response,” Russo said. “We have gotten love and support from all corners of the world.”
An incredible student, Brashears had straight A’s throughout high school, landed on the honor roll and was the person whom everybody asked for tutoring, she said.
“Austin always had the answer, whether it was academic or personal,” Russo said.
Brashears was scheduled to oversee student advisors for the freshmen advising course for engineering students, said ENG Dean Kenneth Lutchen in a phone interview.
“He was a leader, and he energized and sparked all those around him to get involved and help make the engineering experience that much more positive for everyone else – students and faculty,” he said.
Uday Pal, an engineering professor who taught Brashears in Introduction to Environmental Engineering, said Brashears was very competitive in class, but in a good way.
If Brashears did not get the highest score, Pal said, he would ask how he could improve it, even though Pal told him he only got two marks shy of the highest score.
He still would want to know why he got two marks fewer, Pal said.
“He really wanted to improve and be on top, and that was him,” he said.
Pal said Brashears worked on two projects under his supervision. One project Brashears worked on with a graduate student focused on recycling nuclear waste.
Brashears worked on another project with an undergraduate student that involved the construction of a module for energy storage and conversion, which Pal plans to use for his Clean Energy class next semester, he said.
Pal said he remembers Brashears’s drive to excel.
“The one thing that really sticks out is that . . . when he entered my office, I knew that we [were] going to have a discussion on the subject,” Pal said, “and he would want to know . . . it was always, ‘What can I do to improve? What can I do to excel?’”
Brashears scored the highest in Professor Soumendra Basu’s Introduction to Energy Technologies class and was at the top of his own class, Pal said.
“I think he could have really done whatever he wanted to do,” he said. “It’s such a loss, such a loss.”
ENG junior Jarrod Milshtein met Brashears freshman year and said he was one of the first people he could trust to work with on a higher level.
“He was probably the brightest kid I met in my major,” he said.
Milshtein said they did a 20-page research paper together in two days.
“We both sat down two nights in a row and had a blast writing together, side by side in the computer lab,” he said. “He knew how to have a good time all the time.”
In a statement on the Facebook fundraising page, the Brashears family said additional funds will establish a scholarship for students who love club sports as much as their son did.
“Austin always had a way of bringing people together – banding together like you all have is truly a fitting tribute,” the statement read.
Anyone may donate by visiting the page, titled “Fundraising to Bring Our Austin Back Home.”
Amelia Pak-Harvey and Samantha Tatro contributed to the reporting of this article.