Leaving his home country of Mexico to receive an education at Boston University, College of Arts and Sciences freshman Diego Fernandez Montes dreamed of returning to Mexico and making it a better place, said his roommate Chiraag Devani.
“He was so driven,” Devani, a College of Engineering sophomore, said. “He was the definition of a well-rounded person … He was one of those extraordinary people whose dream it was to go back to his country and make it better. Every day I learned something new from him. He was very involved on campus … This is a big loss to the community.”
Fernandez died Thursday night during the Spring Recess. The cause of his death remains unknown by those in the BU community.
Devani said when he became Fernandez’s roommate in November, the two international students bonded over the initial adjustment of life and education in the United States.
“We started off as roommates, and we were bros by the end of it,” Devani said. “We’d just hang out and talk, and it felt like I had known him forever … He was the perfect roommate you could ask for.”
During his time at BU, Fernandez served as the treasurer of the Kilachand Hall Residence Association and the treasurer of BU’s Mexican Students Association, Mexas at BU.
“He was a very happy person,” said Anai Sanchez Rizeron, the freshman representative for Mexas at BU. “If you asked him how he was, he would always say ‘nothing could be better.’ He was a role model for our community. He brought a type of character and interesting personality to the Mexican Club, and it was always great to have him there and to have his support.”
Rizeron said Fernandez strove to establish a link between his beloved home country and the BU community through his leadership in Mexas at BU.
“He loved Mexico and was part of his country,” she said. “That’s why he wanted to be treasurer — to create more connections between Mexico and BU and have events here to represent his country.”
Fernandez was also a valued source of positive inspiration to his friends in the BU community, said his friend Michael Behme.
“He was always a guy that would have a kind word for somebody,” Behme, a College of Arts and Sciences freshman, said. “I know that’s a cheesy thing that anybody could say, but he really would take time to say ‘hey, how are you, how was your day.’ He was always cheerful.”
BU spokesman Colin Riley said the school community should remember Fernandez for the contributions he made during his time as a student.
“It’s a terribly sad tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and classmates,” Riley said. “That’s why we want people to recognize all the wonderful contributions and the great life he had and the things he stood for. He was someone who was obviously really supportive of his friends and the things he was involved with.”
To memorialize the loss of Fernandez, Mexas at BU dedicated a Catholic mass at Marsh Chapel to him on Sunday, which was largely attended by Fernandez’s friends from BU and the Boston area.
“The mass said it all. It was a beautiful moment,” said Rev. Brittany Longsdorf, university chaplain for international students. “Lots of students came out to celebrate his life and the impact he made on BU, even just during his short time as a freshman. He made a difference on so many lives and will be missed by all these people he impacted.”
Devani said Fernandez remains in his memory as a personal inspiration for his determination to use his American education to serve his beloved home country.
“He just made it so much more clear what we need to do as international students,” he said. “We both came from places where what mattered was who your family was. Then we came here, and it’s more about what you learn and your education. He was learning that more and more everyday. He will be the reason I wake up every morning and want to make a difference in the world.”
Editor’s note: An original version of this article stated that Fernandez died Friday night. He actually died Thursday night. The article has been updated to reflect this.