The following piece appears in the fall 2004 issue of Ramaz High School’s Alumni Newsletter, Ramblings.
AMIR LOPATIN ’94 z”l
It has been five months now since our classmate Amir Lopatin died suddenly in a car accident just several weeks past his 28th birthday. To his family and close friends, the tragedy of his untimely death is still shocking and difficult to accept, and we continue to strive for ways to appropriately remember Amir and the impact he had on all who knew him.
At Ramaz, Amir stood out as a brilliant and creative student, with talents that ranged from math and science to poetry, art, music and theatre. He had a precocious intellectual appetite and was constantly recommending books to his friends (Salinger, Vonnegut, Hesse, Kesey, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky) and encouraging us in our own creative pursuits. It was Amir’s character, however, that had the strongest impact. At an age more typically characterized by insecurity and conforming behavior, Amir carried his own unconventional style with an unassuming manner and easy self-confidence. We always welcomed his humor and good natured antics, his zany observations, and his blunt honesty. He constantly challenged us to be more truthful with ourselves and with each other.
After graduation, Amir spent a year studying at Yeshivat Hamivtar in Israel. His rabbis and fellow yeshiva students recall his keen intellect and insightful questions, and the genuine sincerity with which he approached his own religious and spiritual quests.
From there, Amir went on to attend Brown University where he studied computer science. Even in high school, Amir was gifted programmer and he brought his trademark passion and creativity to his work with computers. After graduating from Brown, Amir accepted a position in a large software design company in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he worked to develop tank simulation programs. He later moved back to New York to join a small start-up software company where he worked on designing user interfaces and other programs.
Although his career took him in a different direction, Amir was always a gifted writer and poet. He had a magical way with words, an ability to blend the absurd with the profound in his own unique language and playful style. More than any photograph, it is Amir’s writings – ramblings in emails and letters, website postings, personal essays and poetry – that most vividly evoke his unique personality.
Amir had a wide assortment of interests and hobbies that constantly vied for his time and attention. He loved nature, and was an avid enthusiast of a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, skiing, and sailing. He was a staunch environmentalist and went to great lengths to avoid causing any pollution. Perhaps his favorite outdoor activity was ultimate frisbee. Amir belonged to the ultimate league at Brown and when he came back to New York he volunteered to organize the then haphazard league here. Almost single handedly, he turned the New York league from a series of scattered pick-up games into an institution.
Amir always carried a strong sense of ethics and social responsibility. While at Brown he was a member of an organization that fed the hungry and he spent his spring breaks working with the homeless. When he moved back to New York, he volunteered weekly to teach sailing to inner city youth and was a “Big Brother” for three years to one young boy. He was a constant source of encouragement to his friends, and a devoted son and brother to his family. During the waning months of his father’s life, he moved back home to Englewood to assist and comfort his family as best he could.
Although ensconced in a lucrative job and familiar social environment, in recent years Amir decided to take his career in a dramatically new direction: to use his creativity with computers to teach. This past fall, Amir began his first year of doctoral studies at the Learning Sciences and Technology Design program at Stanford University, a pioneering program dedicated to designing innovative learning technologies.
We can only speculate on the far-reaching extent of Amir’s contributions had he lived out the full potential of his life. To those close to him, it is perhaps most painful to accept that we will forever be without the unique pleasure of his conversation. To speak with Amir was to inhabit a special world removed from the petty and mundane aspects or ordinary life, where obscure references from philosophy, literature, poetry, and music were synthesized with Amir’s unique and refreshing take on nearly any topic. Through his insightfulness, his intellectual curiosity, and his humor he was able to transform situations and relationships to make them more meaningful, more interesting and more honest. In email correspondence with a close friend, Amir once wrote: “people leave your life and new people come in, but there are no substitutes.” For those who knew Amir, there is truly no substitute. We will miss him sorely.
Moshe Malina ‘94; Jonathan Wolfson ‘94