Messages from Stanford friends and teachers
Stanford Solar Car named in honor of Bryant
A page from The Stanford Daily:
Friends Remember Bryant Tan
December 4, 2014
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Tan,
I worked with Bryant in Power Systems at SpaceX and we used to climb together at the rock gym after work. He was a really cool, easy going guy and a lot of fun to hang out with. I was always floored by how smart he was. I remember one time last summer, I was dropping him back at his apartment complex after an evening of climbing. One intersection that we approached had a stop sign that was obscured by some overhanging trees. When I finally saw it, I hopped on the brakes and the wheels locked up. We stopped just before the stop bar and I sat there for a moment feeling very flustered. I looked over an Bryant and he had the grin of a man who just won the lottery. “That was awesome!” he said.
Bryant was an adventurer and loved to experience life to the fullest. I'm so sorry for your loss and I'm very sad to hear of his passing.
August 8, 2014
As you no doubt know, Bryant was a fantastically intelligent young man. He was also willing to share everything he knew with the people around him: the last time I spoke to him on gchat, he was cheerfully helping me with my math homework.
In addition to taking classes with Bryant, I was on solar car with him. I wanted to share a few of the stories that come to mind when I think of Bryant.
First and foremost, Bryant was our Tame Racing Driver. He earned that name on the racetrack at Hidden Valley when he hopped into Xenith and immediately starting taking corners so closely that everybody in the chase car was scared for Xenith. He never hit a single one of the curbs.
As our Tame Racing Driver, Bryant was responsible for driving the fastest lap possible to secure us a good starting position in the race. I remember standing on top of the garages at the track and holding my breath as he took the last corner so fast that it looked like he would crash. He had Xenith's nose sticking out all the way off the last turn at the Hidden Valley Racetrack. He was fine, of course, and he landed us a good starting position.
Later, during the race, Bryant gladly drove 8 hours in the solar car without a single complaint--or at least none that we could understand. His accent made him almost impossible to understand on the radio, and we teased him for that.
Halfway through the race it was clear that we were not going to finish in first place. One night Bryant and I both ended up lying on top of the trailer, staring at the impossibly bright stars in the outback. We talked about the race and about the future. We were already looking forward to the next race, and we talked about what we could do to make the car and the team better in the next two years. We talked about learning about aerodynamics. Bryant was always excited to learn something new, and always willing to jump into it with both feet.
And finally, a sillier memory, drenched in sunlight, from one of the many afternoons the team spent together at the shop during the summer before the race. I was hanging out inside, and Bryant was outside practicing his juggling. Then he was practicing juggling on his bike: a short turn down the driveway to get speed, five seconds of juggling along the length of the parking lot, then a desperate grab for the handlebars and the brakes before he ran into the dumpster at the end of the parking lot. He would stop and gather up his juggling balls, then take his bike to the other end of the driveway and start again, over and over, until he was able to juggle consistently while riding his bike.
Then he sent someone in to grab a few knives from the kitchen, and the rest of us got a bit worried. Fortunately he wasn't practicing juggling on a bike with knives; instead he was just demonstrating how to juggle them while standing still. Much safer!
Bryant was a good friend, an amazing driver, and an inspiration. I'm very sorry for your loss, and for the world's loss.
Sam D'Amico told me what happened to Bryant early on, but it took a very long time to write this email and to decide which stories best summed up my friend, Bryant.
July 26, 2014
In the summer of 2012, I had the pleasure of working with Bryant at Addepar – he was an intern on the engineering team, and I (as a grad student) was an intern on the business development team. Him and I (and many other Addepar interns) shared a small apartment just next to the Addepar office. I remember Bryant as being an incredibly bright and talented guy. He clearly had a passion for engineering and building things, and soon after getting to know him a bit, I could clearly see that he was destined for an amazing future. I was incredibly saddened to hear about his passing. I extend my sincere condolences to his family. The world has lost a truly gifted talent.
July 24, 2014
I didn't hear about what happened until Rahul told me today.
I miss you man. I'm so sorry I couldn't make it up to your house before the rest of my trip- I will carry that to the grave.
There are so many things I didn't tell you. That you were a hero to me. That you pushed me. That you made me feel like I should strive to be a better version of me. That even though we clashed while working on OBMS I always always respected you.
I'm scared for the world. I thought you were to fix it for us.
You made me who I am today. You pushed me into startups with OBMS. You showed me what it takes to be a software engineer.
I will always remember you. And hopefully, when I join you up there, you'll see I told my kids about you.
I love you. I love you and it kills me I never got to tell you what you meant to me.
Bryant's parents- I'm sorry for how bad this note is- I totally understand if you don't want to post it. Bryant and I met the second day of ISO( I am from Hong Kong). We spent 5 months working on a book sharing website. He helped me realize what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I owe him so much that I will never be able to pay him back. I'm so sorry for your loss.
July 20, 2014
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Tan,
I am so very sorry for your loss. I was one of Bryant's friends at Stanford. While I wish I could offer more, please accept my contribution to his memorial.
Bryant and I became friends for the simple and outstanding reason that Bryant treated me like a friend from the moment we met.
Ours was a silly friendship. We facebook chatted at 3am about how he could best escape his overly amorous residents; we chatted as if my presence was normal when I was still sitting in a classroom, stunned and unable to move for 15 minutes after a particularly difficult math class when he had come in for the next lecture; we joked about Stonehenge as if it were a perfectly normal subject for 21-year-olds to spend a significant amount of time talking about; and when he and a few friends came to visit me in Yosemite, his immediate action was to hide Smirnoff Ices all over my room.
The remarkable part of our friendship, though, is the way that he treated it. Whenever I walked into a room where he was, he turned to me with a big grin and said my name with such enthusiasm that I couldn't help but feel that I was supposed to be there, even if I didn't know anyone else in the room. He sat with me on a rock by a waterfall in Yosemite when I didn't want to go as close as the boys we were with, and just like that, I felt like I wasn't holding anyone back. Bryant was the smartest man I have ever met (you can only imagine how annoyed I was when I realized that he would be setting the grading curves for my quantum mechanics classes), but despite having about four times my intelligence, he never once, even accidentally, made me feel inferior around him.
I am often awkward, and sometimes more than a little odd, yet Bryant had a gift for making me feel valuable and included and not even a bit strange.
Whenever his name came up in conversation, my automatic refrain would be, "that man is going to do great things." While the world has been robbed of the greatness that he undoubtably would have achieved, he was in himself a truly great man. I will always be glad to have counted him as one of my friends.
July 17, 2014
Adam Raudonis, Bryant, and I sticking our heads into the water above Nevada Falls in Yosemite
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Tan,
Please accept my deepest condolences.
I had the good fortune of meeting Bryant during his first year at Stanford. Along with two other friends, we worked on a project to match problems in the medical world with engineers who could solve them. Bryant led the effort on the website to prototype this. What took me (a novice programmer) an entire day, Bryant could do in 20 minutes.
I remember so clearly the night that he patiently walked me through how to use the Terminal program on my computer to back up code to our version control system. Whereas my comments to the saves I made were along the lines of, "I made the text input box the right length!" Bryant's contributions spoke to his quiet yet prolific engineering skills: "Built up the back-end." or "Implemented matching algorithm. Woot."
It was an honor to get to work with and become friends with Bryant. He was one of a kind.
With fond memories,
July 16, 2014
July 14, 2014
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Tan,
(Teacher) Mr. Peter Sammut
Bryant’s musical gifts are just about as powerful as his scientific ones. I remember him, apparently effortlessly, leading the school orchestra as principal violin in the same week that he gave a solo piano recital for a lunchtime concert (from memory) and wrote the code for an international school technology competition (which his team won). And all along, without missing a beat, every one of his routine homework assignments, all perfectly correct and immaculately written up, was presented on time to the teachers concerned. But no single anecdote can sum up Bryant’s unique brand of excellence adequately. His ability to take possession of a new set of ideas or circumstances and move them forward in a significant way, or otherwise do something constructive with them is, as Stanford has clearly discovered, truly exceptional. “There is an old adage; there is no such thing as a poor student only a poor teacher”. Be that nonsense or not, Bryant is a perfect example of its obverse; “there is no such thing as a good teacher only a good student”.
If I’m forced to pick out a single story, then, aptly enough today, perhaps the way he chose his university might serve. When Stanford was raised as a possibility, one of his teachers (guess who) raised a note of doubt as to the wisdom of choosing it over a certain other institution, rather closer to home. Having assembled and sifted all the information from a variety of sources, entirely by himself, Bryant moved this conventional wisdom forward and made his own choice. Today’s award is testament enough to his creative insight. Viva Stanford…as well as Bryant!
My deepest condolences for the Tan family. Bryant is missed dearly by his friends on solarcar.
I have attached some of my pictures from WSC 2011 that captured cherished moments from the race, including all the pictures I have with Bryant in it.
July 12, 2014
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Tan,
I have been going through my archives, and all I have is this one good picture of Bryant. I am not the best photo-taker, but I am glad that I have this one at least. I wanted to share it with you because this picture shows not only a fond memory that I have of Bryant, but also one of the best times I have had in any context over the past few years. It is from our Mt. Shasta summit attempt in August 2012 - at this point we are only a mile or so in from the trailhead and everyone is still looking fresh. From left to right: Bryant Tan, Samo Devenica, Andy Lutomirski, Andrea Hawksley. I am holding the camera.
Samo, Andy and I all knew each other from college and Phi Psi, and Andrea is Andy's girlfriend. When we decided to hike this mountain, we sent out an email to current Phi Psi undergrads to see if anyone else would be interested - and that is how we met Bryant. While never having summited anything higher than a few thousand feet before (Scafell Peak if I recall correctly), Bryant was game for attempting all 14,179 feet of Mt. Shasta with us that weekend. We got to know each other better through some day hikes that summer, and in August we set out together to tackle the mountain.
We attempted to summit Shasta from the Clearcreek trailhead, a longer and more gradual route than the traditional Avalanche Gulch, which had completely melted out and posed some rockfall risk. Due to a late start on the hike, we unfortunately only made it as high as 11,200 feet before having to turn back, and we left the last 3,000 feet of mountain for another day. The next spring, Bryant and several others did successfully summit Mt. Shasta (I could not join the attempt unfortunately).
I will remember Bryant as always adventurous, always cheerful, and as particularly skilled at squeezing every last drop of experience from every day. What he was able to accomplish just in his time at Stanford - two degrees, academic honors, internships, wilderness adventures - would take a lot longer than four years for most people. I feel honored to have known him and to have shared what time I could with him. Men like him do not come around often, and he will be missed.
July 12, 2014
Pictures from Rebecca Amato
Dear Family and Friends of Bryant,
I knew Bryant a bit from meeting him in Solar Car. In the summer of 2013, without yet knowing me personally, Bryant took the time to invite me and a fellow solar car member into his world, giving me and fellow solar car member Jason a tour of Space X, where he was working during the summer of 2013. I appreciated Bryant's openness to inspire a younger solar car member and to make a new friend.
As a young person learning about the tragedy of Bryant's passing, I am reminded of the beauty and possible brevity of life. I know that I will not forget Bryant Tan and I do not doubt that he lived a great life. May his memory live on for us all.
July 10, 2014
Dear Mrs. and Mr. Tan,
I want to offer my deepest condolences and am so unbelievably sorry to hear the news of Bryant. You obviously know of your son's brilliance, curiosity, and dedication to hard work, but he also made a huge impact on so many people's lives. I never was a close friend of Bryant's and only knew him through climbing and working out at the gym. However, he still inspired me in so many ways. I wanted to thank you both for raising an amazing son and let you know his memory lives on with all of us as he continues to inspire us. May he rest in peace.
July 10, 2014
Mr. and Ms. Tan,
I unfortunately never had the chance to meet Bryant, but I was a member of the Stanford climbing community for many years. Four years ago today, that community lost another one very dear to us and to me - Chris Chan. She also died in a climbing accident. Today I was able to meet with some of her friends and her family for lunch. I am convinced that there is nothing so difficult in this world as losing a child. I realize I cannot fully grasp that grief, but within the last 4 years I have had two children of my own, so I at least am starting to discover what it means to be a parent.
My heart goes out to you at this time of loss. The nice thing that I've seen is that after 4 years now, when Chris's friends and family get together, the memory of her happy stories and the sparkle in our eyes when we talk about Chris has not faded. The sadness doesn't fade either, but it does transform and evolve. I feel Chris all the time in the warm summer breeze on those sunny days, especially when I am in nature, in the places she loved most. She continues to inspire me and many people, and I can tell from Bryant's website that he will as well.
My sincerest condolences and prayers are with you,
July 10, 2014
Bryant touched many people in his life, and we all carry with us fragments of him in our memories.
This is why, in Bryant's memory, I want to share some stories about my time with him.
I started rock climbing seriously when I got to Stanford as a freshman, and eventually joined the Stanford Climbing Team when it was founded winter quarter that year, and it was there that I met Bryant. Perhaps because we were the only two members of the undergrad climbing community who were also international students, we got acquainted quite quickly, and after spending many evenings together holed up in the climbing gym we became friends.
My development through climbing from then on is inseparable from Bryant. Being exposed to his sunny but determined disposition whilst climbing meant that it started being reflected in my own style. He also became my lead climbing partner and helped me gain strength and confidence, and we would bike back to our respective houses together each evening/early morning after practice was over, talking about engineering or joking about everything else. Because of the differing meal times in our respective houses (PhiSi didn't serve dinner on Sundays whilst Hammerskjold did) Bryant became a regular dinner guest.
But what I will always remember was our (2013) thanksgiving trip to Yosemite
Being international students, going home wasn't really an option, so we decided that we would go to Yosemite for a few days, and explore what the valley had to offer. We borrowed a friend's car, threw our climbing gear in the back and set off on the highway, making wrong turns every half an hour because I was such a poor copilot. We made it, nevertheless, and managed to finagle a spot at camp 4, which was otherwise completely booked. For dinner we cooked plain couscous stolen from my pantry, and for breakfast we ate plain special K cereal stolen from his.
During the day we climbed, and in the evenings we would go on short hikes, exploring the boulders and waterfalls around us. It was just the two of us. It was, and still is, the most intimate I've ever been with anyone.
It was my first time experiencing the beauty of Yosemite, and I'm so grateful to have been able to share it with such a good friend.
Bryant would eventually stop climbing and turned his attention elsewhere, and I saw less of him as our paths through Stanford diverged. But that doesn't change the fact that he played a substantial part in who I am today, and gave me memories that I'll cherish for a long time.
Leopold Wambersie de Brouwer
The photos attached were taken on our trip, by him or me.
Dear Chin Wee and Ee Meng,
I met Bryant last summer. He was the first of my Space X suite mates to greet me; wearing his warm smile and welcoming me to the group. We hit it off early and became fast friends. Both of us loved climbing, were into engineering, and lo and behold he went to Stanford, where I have since started as a grad student.
We did pretty much everything together all summer long, from body surfing on the beach to expeditions exploring the local neighborhoods. Neither of us had a car, so we convinced others to take us on climbing trips, including one particularly fantastic rock climbing trip to Joshua Tree. Bryant never shied away from life and meaningful experiences; he was always eager to try the next thing and make every day count.
I was deeply in awe of Bryant. He was always eager to make progress in his work; always got up bright and early in the morning and stayed up late at night, never wasting time, but reading textbooks and expanding his knowledge; was fully committed to his friends and strove for perfection in every task, and was as humble as they come. He had an endless reserve of energy and determination, was patient and resourceful, and believed that if it was worth doing, it was worth doing all-out.
Bryant welcomed me to Stanford, and we took several classes together, including working together on our final project for optimal control. I have no idea how he managed his work load, but everything he did was high quality, accurate, and concise. Every week we would meet up to compare our work, and if there was a discrepancy he was almost always right. Bryant had a way of seeing past the complexities and understanding the core functionality of a problem and its solution. He would always charge on fearlessly, always eager to puzzle out the next difficulty.
He is one of the few people I find faultless, someone who truly understood what he wanted in life and would never let anything get in his way. I am more than fortunate to have shared those moments with him; I am blessed, humbled, and forever changed. Bryant was everything one could aspire to be; the best of friends, the purest of scholars, and the hardest of workers. He possessed a steadfast determination, a love of life, a sense of adventure, and a longing to know and understand.
My sincerest condolences to you and your family.
July 10, 2014
Not only has Bryant been robbed of his life, but the world has been robbed of one of her best.
He would not want me to just claim that he was one of the most incredible human beings I've ever known. He'd want me to rigorously prove it, which I will attempt to do so.
Just as it has been said that the burning of the library of Alexandria set humanity back centuries, our technological progress and exploration of the final frontier has been delayed by Bryant's death. I know this because of unbelievable speed with which he worked. If you didn't know he was a person, you might have guessed a small army of engineers was behind the scenes. He did coding problems in 20 minutes that took his peers several hours. I never believed the saying that the best engineer is 30-35 times more productive than those below him until I met him. At Adepar it was a challenge for his managers to constantly come up with new tasks for him as he would complete them so quickly. Bryant’s boss at Spacex wrote his recommendation saying that he accomplished more in 6 weeks then I could in 6 months. I'm convinced that had he lived longer his work would have made him immortal. This is not an exaggeration, but only one dimension of the person we all love.
He thirst for knowledge was unquenchable. He read a book on the US electric grid, loved a class on airplane design, went with me to talks on extraterrestrial life. I think a lesser known ability that Bryant possessed is he public speaking ability. When he spoke about the Phi Psi kitchen (even though he wasn’t KM) everyone was rapt and impressed with his elocution.
We were brothers and going to work for sister companies next year. I think we may have bonded over both being only children. He was going to meet my Dog Dudley for the first time because last time at my house he wasn't there.
Once we climbed a mountain by my house and I now cringe at how he took the steep, technical, and in his mind fun way down while I meandered down the safe path. It was in his blood to conquer nature, to trust equipment, and never take the easy way out.
Had I known he had such a limited time on Earth I would have not wasted it by getting homework help on introductory classes. In his infinite generosity he helped his classmates through the most trivial of problems even when that took away from his intense workload.
One night I wandered into Bryant’s room at 3am like usual. Maybe it was to complain about girls or talk about SpaceX, I don't remember. But we decided to really live life to the fullest and go an adventure we would remember in old age. 4 hours later we were off past the Golden Gate Bridge and launching a tandem kayak into Tomales bay. We paddled 6 miles out to an island. That day with one of my best friends could only be described as sublime. Not only did we have deep meaningful and intellectual conversations, but also laughed louder than the sea lions on that island. Among other things he thought it was hilarious that all the clams friends would squirt me as we tried to pluck one out.
He'd always say, Adam I have something to show you! It would range from a home built EKG machine that could read your mind if you were thinking about flexing certain muscles to an interactive visualization showing the trajectory of a rocket during a powered descent. The math involved was certainly at a doctorate or post-doctorate level.
Despite a resume to die for he always remained humble. And he held himself to such a high standard it was almost detrimental. He once called himself stupid. Which was the only incorrect thing I've ever heard him say. And if that was true then I don't think there are any smart people on Earth.
Everything started looking up for Bryant once the stress of school was lifted, He wore a constant contagious smile. His last text to me proves it. Me: nice. How are other things?? Bryant: great! really great actually. busy now, but I must tell you about it all later. it was ridiculous. He never got to tell me.
I am just one of Bryant's very close friends. Don't let his quiet demeanor fool you. He was a very social person who not only had close friends who loved him but many acquaintances around campus. He also had an incredible relationship with his professors. He wrote each of them hand written thank you cards. The loss of kindness and the potential application of knowledge in that head is mind boggling.
I have a vision burned into my head freshman year of Bryant decked out in a full tuxedo and top hat talking to a cute British girl at Stanford. I thought to myself man I'll never top that!
At one point he quit the climbing team out of frustration that he plateaued and was not going to improve much farther. In place of this he went to the gym every single day with Ian Zalles. Walking to the shower he put nearly every other guy in Phi Psi to shame! He was actually at the peak of his physical and intellectual prime. You'd think I was talking about a Greek god, but this mortal is certainly worthy of the sculptures and legacy bestowed upon the greats.
I've also never known someone more true to his word. One summer Bryant needed a pillow so I gave one to him. He said he would build a church in my honor. That's a lovely British saying I thought. But low and behold three months later, Bryant returned my pillow and included a neon green church model he personally 3D printed and designed.
I am a better person as a result of being graced by my good friend's presence. I feel that is a debt I owe, but can now never repay. I want my life's work to be worthy of Bryant's standard. His memory will always live on in my head, but I want the world to know this great man walked it. I know it is kind of silly, but I want to buy a star for him. I feel like it’s the least I could do. Maybe he can visit it in heaven. I hope though that together we can somehow give Bryant the lasting legacy he deserves.
Bryant, you did not need to climb the mountain alone. Your friends and family are here for you, to carry you, and now to remember you forever. I never thought I'd live to see you embody one of your favorite quotes and slip the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of god.
July 8, 2014
I cannot say how sorry I am to hear the news of Bryant. Many at Stanford say that I work incredibly hard and push myself, but Bryant always made me feel like I needed to push myself further and could do anything I put my mind to. I have never met anyone so determined and so intellectually curious - he wanted to know everything. His last quarter at Stanford he decided to take one of the hardest fluid dynamics classes because he wanted to learn it before SpaceX - he didn't have the background for it but read textbooks I gave him and did better than a large portion of the class. We both helped each other make the decision to go to SpaceX and he was tremendously supportive of the new space group I started at Stanford, coming to almost all of our events even though he was incredibly busy.
Please let me know if there is anything I can do and thank you so much for the opportunity to meet your son. I know that his memory will continue to inspire me for years to come.
All the best,
July 9, 2014
Chin Wee and Ee Meng,
I hope you are well. Please find below what I have written in memory of Bryant. It has been so difficult to write something that fully captures just a short time together.
Bryant and I met in the fall of our Freshman year at the solar car shop, where we had been assigned a small task together. After that, the whirl of Freshman year took our lives in different directions, and I thought nothing of the quiet guy with a British accent whom I did not see for at least 6 more months.
When we met again and discovered how much our interests lined up (everything from electronics to soda-can sized satellites to Gustav Holst), we became instant friends, and it only seemed natural that we would be roommates the following year after joining the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity together. Before we became roommates in a remarkably small room, he was a large part of one of the greatest summers I've ever had: we visited each others' work, went climbing, built electronics, pulled all-nighters, tested solar cars in the heat of the central valley, and shared meals. I was so lucky to be moving in with someone so compatible!
Living with Bryant showed me the serious side of the jovial tackle-anything-and-do-everything man I thought I already knew: his insistent focus on tough problems became legendary, and I hope that some day I can have a fraction of his work ethic. We helped each other with problem sets (rather, he helped me with our problem sets) and worked on class and hobby projects together. I could always count on his friendly, "Hey, Max!" when I walked in. It wasn't a surprise if he did math until the sun came up.
We later were interns together at SpaceX, and when our manager found out that we had been roommates, we shared a cubicle. Bryant's willingness to teach, as well as his whimsical outlook, made work a blast. We spent our senior year living down the hall from each other and being project partners, as well as finding a bit of time to relax together when he wasn't finishing two degrees at the same time!
I am so thankful that our lives overlapped at Stanford, and don't think I'll ever meet anyone quite like Bryant. He will remain in my thoughts, is a constant role model, and is one of the best friends I will ever have. I cannot comprehend the pain his family must feel; my most sincere wishes are with them.
I hope anyone whom Bryant touched can celebrate, rather than mourn. He has certainly made me a better person.
July 9, 2014
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Tan,
It's difficult for me to express my emotions regarding your loss. Bryant shaped many of the most important decisions I made in college, so this shock will last for a very long time.
A few months ago, when I was going through old emails, I realized that Bryant was my first real friend at Stanford. We met in physics class, and before long we were working together on a software project to add social features to email lists, which Bryant and I called Dormlink. We met nearly every day about it and spent all of our first winter break working on it. Launching it in January for our dorms brought us to a level of pride and happiness that I'll never forget. It was like a tremendous lightbulb lit up, and I'm truly proud to say that we shared it.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I grew from that relationship more than any other at Stanford. Bryant convinced me to rush a fraternity with him, I switched my major to Computer Science, and the rest is history; it's very likely that I wouldn't have joined either if it hadn't been for Bryant.
I sincerely, sincerely wish I had been more grateful to him in person. It is a wish that I'll carry unfulfilled for the rest of my life.
The craziest thing was how willing he was to help people or talk or build things just for the fun of it, without any pretense of social gain. He was a pure human being, a pure and beautiful human being. I hope I can carry him in my heart and learn from the incredible man, cofounder, brother, and friend he was.
May he rest in peace.
July 9, 2014
Pictures from Evan Shieh
Bryant and friends pose for a picture with visiting professor Douglas R. Hofstadter (author of Godel Escher Bach) at Stanford.
Bryant with friends in Iceland, June 20, 2014
Bryant with friends in Iceland, June 20, 2014
Dear Mrs. and Mr. Tan,
I am so unbelievably sorry for your loss. I can still hardly believe I am writing this email to you, as I can only imagine how you must feel.
Bryant was one of my closest friends in the brief time that we knew each other at Stanford. He lived down the hall from me this past year in Phi Psi and we would often spend time together cooking, building things and talking about everything from math to philosophy. I cannot think of another friend who I came to respect and look up to like him in so short a period of time. Bryant was widely regarded as not just the smartest student in our fraternity and group of friends (if not at Stanford as a whole), but also one of the kindest and most genuine.
Two weeks ago we were in Iceland together and Bryant was sharing stories with me about his family. It was by far the best conversation we had all trip, and Bryant spoke very fondly of both of you. He told me about his childhood and how grateful he was that his mother would be the only one to let him play in the sand despite receiving funny looks from all the other moms at the beaches in Singapore. Bryant credited all of his aptitude in math/engineering/physics to his father, in taking him along to play with circuits at an early age to reading academic papers with him in high school. Something that both of us wish happened at graduation was for me to meet his 奶奶, who always brings a smile to Bryant's face whenever he talks about her. I was told she cooks some of the best crab and chicken fried rice dishes in town. It's clear to me that Bryant grew up in an extraordinarily loving household, and the impact of his upbringing has grown to reach everything and everyone that Bryant touched at Stanford.
Bryant has always been there to push the boundaries for all of us as his friends and peers. At the beginning of the year he approached me with the idea of building an EEG together. I agreed, but with a good degree of doubt because I barely knew that was even possible for college undergraduates. You can imagine my disbelief when we (well mostly, him) finished a few days later with a device that is capable of detecting and transmitting muscular and neural outputs. Bryant would read heavy math textbooks I would give him in less than a week, and come back to ask for more. He was the one to figure out how to print from the Stanford network for free. Bryant was the one in our group of friends to always be organized and excited enough to take the lead on planning adventures outdoors. One of his favorite quotes - "pain is learning" - is still on my quote wall. Examples like these are numerous and became hardly surprising to those of us that knew Bryant well.
But if there is one lasting impact above everything else that Bryant has left with me, it is his youthful spirit and compassion for life. Bryant was one of the few people I truly felt comfortable opening up to, not just because he would always show up at my door with a smile on his face and a cool proof to talk about, but also because he was a uniquely capable listener and warmhearted friend. He would remember details I barely remember telling him from our many late-night conversations. If I injured myself or got sick, Bryant was always the first (and many times, only) friend to reach out and offer his care and hospitality. To me there was no trait of his more special than the compassion he would invest in his relationships.
It is still immensely shocking to me to hear this news, as I am sure it must be even more so for you to hear about your son. I am absolutely willing to provide support in any way, including flying over to London to be with you now and/or at the time of Bryant's memorial - but if that is too much I absolutely understand as the last thing I would want is to take time and space away from you at this moment. My family loved meeting him and getting the chance to eat lunch with him at graduation, and our prayers will be with Bryant, both of you, and the rest of your family.
With all of my best wishes,
July 3, 2014
Roger Howe just now relayed the news of Bryant's sudden passing, only two weeks after Commencement. I am heartbroken. I cannot even begin to imagine your sense of loss.
I am struggling to focus on how purely wonderful it was to have had him as a student in two classes. The gratitude I feel at having known someone so remarkable is tinged with the melancholy of so much promise unfulfilled. His boundless enthusiasm for tackling any challenge fearlessly set him apart from his peers. No amount of work I threw at him was too much -- he always wanted more. Indeed, he had to have more. I was surprised and honored that, of all the faculty he could have chosen, he named me to accompany him to the Terman Award ceremony. Until the announcement of the award, I hadn't been aware that he was an undergraduate, as his performance was that of a seasoned doctoral student.
I left town on business right after the Commencement ceremony. Upon my return a week later, I discovered a letter he'd slipped under my office door, in which he generously expressed gratitude for the torture of the two classes, and graciously invited me to dine with him the next time I visit southern California.
I weep that I'll never have the privilege.
Words simply do not exist to express the depths of the sadness I feel, nor to convey condolences in any meaningful way. All I can do is to thank you two for having brought him into this world. Knowing Bryant for one short year is a memory I'll carry always. You knew him for a lifetime; what a joy that must be.
July 8, 2014
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Tan,
I am deeply shocked by Bryant's passing, and I can't even imagine what your family must be going through. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Bryant.
I didn't have too much in common with Bryant other than being in the same fraternity, but every time I spoke with him, I could tell that he was exceptional. When you see people passing through the same halls as you every day, individual interactions sometimes become cheap and unimportant. But Bryant--he didn't operate like this. Every time I spoke with him, I felt his compassion.
Bryant may have had a bright future ahead of him, but even now, I believe that he left an incredibly wonderful and positive mark on the world. I am so happy to have known him.
July 8, 2014
A great tragedy.
When condolences are passed to Brother Tan's family from the Chapter, please also extend deepest sympathy from the family of Phi Kappa Psi Co-Founder William Henry Letterman.
Stanford Phi Kappa Psi
July 8, 2014
Pictures from Rebecca Amato
Two families at Stanford University on June 14, 2014.
Big Game, Stanford, Sep 2010