University of Chicago community mourns loss of campus leader, selfless friend
Max Solomon Lewis, a rising third-year student in the College, is remembered by members of the University of Chicago community for his constant enthusiasm and the care he extended to others.
A double major in economics and computer science from Denver, Lewis died on July 4, three days after being hit by a stray bullet while riding an off-campus Chicago Transit Authority train. He was 20 years old.
“The University is devastated by Max’s loss. During this sorrowful time, our deepest sympathies are with Max’s family, friends and all who knew him,” wrote Provost Ka Yee C. Lee and Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen in a message to the University community. “Max was a talented student and beloved campus leader and friend who will be greatly missed.”
Lewis was president of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and member of Promontory Investment Research (PIR), a student-run publication. Through his many UChicago activities, Lewis made a lasting impact on many of his classmates, who remembered him as unconditionally supportive.
Joyce Liu, a rising third-year student, recalled regular phone calls she had with Lewis, which she called “incredibly grounding,” especially in the midst of the pandemic. The last time they spoke, they began celebrating an offer Lewis had received for a summer 2022 internship—a topic he quickly interrupted to discuss new ideas as members of PIR.
“He was always thinking about others, always thinking about ways to improve the communities and people that he cared deeply about,” Liu said. “That was something that was so incredibly special about Max.”
Victoria Gin, a rising fourth-year student, met Lewis through their involvement in PIR. Now the president of the organization, she recalled Lewis’ warmth and “can-do” attitude. “Even in a virtual environment, Max would find a way to make everyone laugh,” she said. “It was incredible.”
Gin once invited Lewis to a dinner with friends to celebrate the end of the quarter. Lewis said he already had both lunch and dinner plans—but he joined them for a second dinner regardless. “He found a way to make sure he could participate and be present at every single event possible,” Gin said. “I have no idea how he was able to do it all, but he made sure to show up.”
“He was always thinking about others, always thinking about ways to improve the communities and people that he cared deeply about.”
—Joyce Liu, rising third-year student
Zach Cogan, who met Lewis on their first day as UChicago students in fall 2019, remembered Lewis for his kindness and selflessness. “He would do things for other people and never ask for credit,” said Cogan, a rising third-year student and fellow member of Alpha Epsilon Pi. “He just wanted to help as many people as he could and was the biggest team player.”
Asst. Prof. Rad Niazadeh of the Booth School of Business described Lewis as “a hidden gem and a rising star.” He recalled how Lewis reached out to register for Niazadeh’s course on managerial decision modeling, which had reached enrollment capacity. To convince Niazadeh, Lewis explained that he wanted to train across different departments to solve problems at the intersection of economics, computer science and operations.
“I indeed allowed him to take my course to follow this aspiration,” Niazadeh said. “He later returned this favor by his exemplary grit and passion during the course.”
The University will provide information on plans to honor Max’s memory in the near future.
“Max’s passing brings profound grief to the College community,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “As a student scholar and friend, Max was admired by many for the character and ambition that exemplifies the extraordinary students of UChicago. We are deeply saddened to lose this appreciated member of our community.”
Lewis is survived by his parents, Mark and Rebecca; and his younger brother, Eli.
—This story was first published on the University of Chicago College website.