Tufts Junior, Her Parents and Brother Die in Car Crash in New Zealand

Julia Lee, A16, was set to begin a study-abroad program at the University of Auckland

Julia Lee and her parents

The Tufts community is mourning the death of junior Julia Lee, A16, who was killed in a car accident in New Zealand on Feb. 17, along with her parents, Aesoon and Warren Lee of Hong Kong. Lee was about to begin a study-abroad program at the University of Auckland. Her 18-year-old brother Griffin died on Feb. 23 from injuries sustained in the accident. He had just been admitted to the Tufts undergraduate Class of 2019 through the early-decision program.

Lee, a computer science major, was described by students who knew her as warm, fun, caring and kind. She was social chair of the Tufts Hong Kong Students Association and on the club tennis team.

“This loss is a tragedy for all who knew and loved Julia and her parents, and for Julia’s faculty members, advisors, classmates and friends,” wrote Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco and other administrators in an email to the community. “This is also a loss for all members of the Tufts community. Julia was a young woman of tremendous vibrancy and compassion, and she will be deeply missed.”

Sixty students participated in a gathering on Feb. 19 in Goddard Chapel, along with the Rev. Greg McGonigle, the university chaplain, and several university administrators. “Several students spoke beautifully about her presence, her warmth, her smile and her commitment to her friendships,” said Mary Pat McMahon, dean of student affairs. Another gathering of about 40 students with McGonigle and other administrators took place the following day as well.

Michelle Ng, E15, knew Lee through the Tufts Hong Kong Students Association. “Julia was always optimistic, and saw the positive in any negative situation. She had the ability to make people around her feel comfortable, and without a doubt, always had a smile on her face,” said Ng. “Not only was Julia an essential, irreplaceable part of the Hong Kong Students Association, but also a loving friend who will never be forgotten.”

“Julia seemed to collect passions,” said Chris Gregg, a lecturer in computer science who was Lee’s advisor. She first came to him as a second-semester sophomore after taking the Introduction to Computer Science course and deciding to major in computer science. “She had discovered a new passion in the field,” he said. They talked before she went abroad to New Zealand about how she would add a major in economics, and how she was going to fit everything in.

“Julia always seemed to be running one step ahead of all of her obligations, and I attribute her ability to get everything done to her strong organizational skills and to her resolve to do well,” Gregg said. “She was a conscientious, articulate and ambitious student. She had the determination to learn all she could in a wide range of subjects.”

Lee took Ming Chow’s Web Programming course last fall. “What I remember the most about Julia is how much she grew at the end of the semester compared to day one,” said Chow, E02, E04, a lecturer in the School of Engineering. “The news is very sad, because we will never see what she could have been.”

A number of resources are available for members of the Tufts community. The University Chaplaincy office in Goddard Chapel is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and all of the chaplains can be contacted for pastoral care. The Counseling and Mental Health Service is offering walk-in hours between noon and 1 p.m. each day through Feb. 27. It is also open for regular appointments weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. by calling 617-627-3360. The Dean of Student Affairs office and the Group of Six directors are available to support students as well. Additionally, counselors, chaplains and administrators are available on call after hours, and can be contacted through Tufts Police Department at 617-627-3030. Faculty and staff may contact the University Chaplaincy (617-627-3427) as well as the Tufts Employee Assistance Program for support.

A celebration of the lives of Julia Lee, A16, and her brother Griffin will be held on April 11. It will begin at 11 a.m. in the Ballou Hall’s Coolidge Room, with music, brief reflections and a photo presentation, and then move outdoors for the dedication of a tree and a memorial bench in their honor. It will conclude with a reception. For more information, please contact University Chaplain the Rev. Greg McGonigle, at greg.mcgonigle@tufts.edu.

Taylor McNeil can be reached at taylor.mcneil@tufts.edu.

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