He was the life of the party, the one who would dance in the middle of the floor. He was the student who would carve out hours to talk with professors. He was the conversation starter, the one with that smile.
Friends of Anthony Nazaire say he had a gift for connecting with people. Professors say he had an unmatched vision for success.
Nazaire’s life was taken early in the morning of Aug. 28, the result of being stabbed on Cornell University’s campus during a large fight. Police have not yet named a suspect.
Three days prior, Nazaire had written down his career goals and aspirations at the bottom of a contact sheet for Jim Johnson, lecturer of marketing and law, for his Legal Environment of Business class. He wrote about how he wanted to get an MBA, at least, and maybe a law degree. He, a sophomore business administration major, wanted to be an entrepreneur and start his own business.
After class that day, Nazaire walked Johnson part of the way to his next class, asking him questions about law school. Before parting ways, they discussed getting together to talk again.
“An absolutely delightful young man,” Johnson said. “The first day of class, so many students are cloaked in the zone of privacy. That was not his problem.”
Senior Leonard Davis, also a business administration major, said Nazaire’s natural ability to connect with friends and strangers was special.
“Some people are trained to network,” he said. “Some people are trained to be personable. He just had it.”
Nazaire was a treasurer of the organization Brothers4Brothers, a club for men of color at the college to meet and discuss social, academic and political issues. Davis first met Nazaire last year, when Davis gave a presentation to B4B about his own budding company, Fearwalk. Nazaire immediately volunteered his weekend nights to help with Fearwalk, a haunted walk through the Natural Lands during Halloween that Davis plans to expand to other colleges. Had he not done that, and brought six or seven volunteers with him, Davis said his company would not have gotten off the ground the way it has with its own brand and marketing team.
“I didn’t thank him enough,” Davis said. “You can never thank someone enough for making your dream a reality.”
But Nazaire wasn’t someone who helped others just for the praise.
“He would do anything to be involved, to help — and genuinely,” Davis said. “He did it not with the expectation of return, but simply to be a part of it. To help create something bigger.”
As a student, he always wanted more — more knowledge, more conversation, more success. The first time he met with his academic adviser William Tastle, professor and chair of the Department of Management, he was frowning over first-semester grades — grades that most students, Tastle said, would have been glad to have. Nazaire admitted to Tastle that he simply didn’t know how to study, which Tastle called courageous.
“The next time he came in, he had the characteristic grin on his face that was omnipresent,” Tastle said. “He took everything in stride; if anything, he wanted more than he was getting. … He knew what he wanted, and he knew it was going to require work on his part to get there, and he wasn’t afraid to do it.”
Even with the accompanying stress, Dhruv Kumar, who graduated in December 2015, said Nazaire kept smiling. Kumar was Nazaire’s neighbor and Resident Assistant.
“It didn’t matter what we were talking about — there was always a smile on his face,” Kumar said.
Davis said Nazaire was going to become involved in Young Entrepreneurs Organization, of which Davis is president. He said Nazaire would have led the organization himself eventually if he’d had the opportunity.
And when he was not pursuing business interests, he spent hours with Davis talking about goals, dreams and what it means to be a man of color on this campus. He loved to eat — he even once talked about building a restaurant for his mother and sister in Brooklyn, where he grew up and graduated from Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School. He loved to dance, and Davis once caught him mimicking Michael Jackson moves while dressed in a Morphsuit for Fearwalk.
But every day, Davis said, Nazaire lived the life of a young innovator, an impassioned student and a compassionate friend.
“Nazaire was a story that was waiting to be told,” Davis said.