San Marino was shaken to its core last Thursday as the news of the passing of Kirk Wu swept through the community.
A 2017 graduate of San Marino High School, Wu was in his sophomore year at Columbia University when he took his own life, according to a police report.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, October 20, from 6–10:00 p.m. in the Speech & Debate room at San Marino High School, where Wu lived out one of his many passions. Friends and family are invited to the memorial service, which is hosted by fellow SMHS grads Anthony Ma, Joey Kiang and Zoe Perez.
“We hope during this event to celebrate his life rather than death and show everyone that nothing about Kirk has been changed by recent events,” Ma told The Tribune. “He is still the same charming, kind, leader who helped all those around him.”
Born in China on November 4, 1998, Kirk was the son of Helena and James Wu. A member of the school’s award-winning Speech & Debate team, Wu served as captain his junior and senior years. And was vice president of the team as a senior. Friends said he coached all the debaters on the team and organized tournament logistics. He received a bid to the Tournament of Champions in Debate during his senior year. Wu was also president of the Model United Nations club, where he taught his fellow members the value of international relations, diplomacy and coalition building. During the summers following his sophomore and junior years, Wu performed cancer research at City of Hope and co-authored a research paper. He was a captain of the Titan junior varsity tennis team and “insisted” on being manager of the varsity team during his senior year, according to Coach Melwin Pereira.
“He was the nicest, friendliest kid you would ever want to meet,” Pereira said Tuesday afternoon, still visibly shaken by the loss. “He was full of energy. Every single day. This is very, very sad and a tremendous loss for the community.”
Ma shared Pereira’s grief.
“I’ve known Kirk ever since high school,” Ma told The Tribune, still understandably speaking in the present tense. “We met on the Speech & Debate team. Everyone would agree that Kirk is an extremely smart, kind-hearted, and inspiring leader. His openness and genuine attitude make all the interactions with him feel real and meaningful.”
Friends Katherine Chen and Jay Xiao mourned their loss, but also chose to challenge reports that Wu was despondent over recent midterm exams.
“Kirk Wu was one of our best friends,” Chen and Xiao said in a joint statement. “We wish to inform you that the narrative provided by the anonymous student of how Kirk must’ve taken his own life due to ‘stress from midterms’ has been viewed as an immensely disrespectful, hurtful, and one-dimensional depiction of the turmoil Kirk went through. This is the view shared not just by ourselves, but for many of those very close to him as well. We find that this ‘stress from midterms’ comment likely came from an individual who hardly knew him at all, as those who were very aware of his struggles know how inaccurate this comment is. In reality, this semester, Kirk had been taking only four classes, and he himself had admitted it wasn’t a difficult course load. It is a massive oversimplification of the situation to blame what happened on a stress culture or something as insignificant as a midterm grade.”
“Kirk knew that his success and ability to reach his life goals had little to do with his GPA, even though he still retained a very high one, and understood that his worth could never be defined by a number,” he said. “During college, he focused largely on networking and valued his friendships above all.”
Friends fondly remembered San Marino High School teacher Lisa Davidson telling classmates that “Kirk is the light of our classroom. His humor and quirks are priceless.”
“Whenever people would mess up in Mrs. Linton’s Honors Math Analysis class, she would jokingly say ‘just try to be more like Kirk,’” Chen and Xiao recalled.
Ma also welcomed friends and family members to attend Saturday’s memorial service.
“We hope during this event to celebrate his life rather than death and show everyone that nothing about Kirk has been changed by recent events,” Ma said. “He is still the same charming, kind, leader who helped all those around him.”