Students, family and friends are remembering Justin Niezrecki, a 22-year-old electrical engineering student from Avon who took his own life behind Mansfield Apartments on Dec. 6 last year.
Niezrecki was involved in numerous organizations at the University of Connecticut, including Engineering Ambassadors, the 3D Printing Club, the Engineering Student Leadership Council and the Gamers Club, according to the Dean of the School of Engineering Kazem Kazerounian.
Justin’s father, Rick Niezrecki, in his obituary spoke of Justin’s constant desire to get to know those around him on a personal level and see the factors that made them unique, valuable human beings.
“Justin was keenly aware we are not cogs stamped out of a machine. Justin always looked for what makes our fellow human special,” Niezrecki said. “Justin strove to find out what made you different and what made you special. He embraced diversity, because it makes us all better people and it makes our community stronger.”
Justin Niezrecki also founded a club at UConn where students could come together and watch “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and drink tea to destress, according to his friend Beth Cavanaugh, who said he was very proud of that club.
Morgan Locandro, another friend of Niezrecki’s, spoke of a time at an Engineering Ambassadors conference where a fellow ambassador was struggling with a speech they were giving, and Niezrecki quickly stepped in to make him more comfortable.
“[Justin] stood up and said ‘Morgan, we’re going to give a presentation about dragons,’” Locandro said. “[Our] favorite movie was “How to Train Your Dragon.” And he stands up and he just starts talking and the two of us went on for about 10 minutes just talking about dragons.”
Locandro said the nervous ambassador stood up after Justin’s dragon speech and recited his speech about wind energy and nailed it.
Nicholas Tannicus, a UConn alum and friend of the Niezrecki family, said Justin’s optimism, even in the face of adversity, was contagious to those who loved him.
“He injected positive energy into everyone he met. No matter who they were or even if they were strangers. He just wanted to make people smile and feel confident in who they were,” Tannicus said. “He was thoughtful and kind and so so very inclusive. I can’t think of a single person who has more good in his heart.”
UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said a memorial scholarship has been made in Justin’s name and that his legacy will live on as a mentor and friend to many.
“Leaders of the appropriate university offices and departments have been in conversation with Justin’s family, friends and classmates in the time since his death, both to express condolences and to offer support,” Reitz said. “President Katsouleas also greatly appreciated the chance to honor Justin’s memory on the university’s behalf as a guest at his memorial service.”
Cavanaugh stressed how many lives Justin was able to touch through his various volunteer work, as well as through friendships he formed.
“I don’t know anyone who embraced life like Justin embraced life,” Cavanaugh said. “That dude was just out here to meet the world and make it his best friend.”
Cavanaugh and Locandro agreed that Justin was a great friend and person.
“For someone who’s never met Justin, I’d say you missed out,” Locandro said.
The Mental Health Office at Student Health and Wellness is located on the fourth floor of Arjona (337 Mansfield Road, Storrs, CT 06269) and is open during normal business hours Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After hours, weekends and holidays, call 860-486-4705 and stay on the line.
The Dean of Students office on the second floor of the Wilbur Cross Building (233 Glenbrook Road, Storrs, CT 06269) is also available to assist students in need. You can make an appointment by calling 860-486-3426 or stop in Monday-Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
24/7 Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Taylor Harton is the associate news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ashley Anglisano is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.