This Saturday, friends and family of former UCSB chemistry graduate student Michele Guidoni will gather to share memories and celebrate the life of the man they describe as exceptional in brilliance and heart.
In late September, 39-year-old Guidoni died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest in the Santa Ynez Mountains. The former UCSB undergraduate and chemistry graduate student is survived by his parents Gail and Mike, two brothers and his wife, Jennifer Guidoni, who is currently trying to create a memorial on campus for her husband, as he considered it a second home. Donations for the memorial can be made through the Santa Barbara Bank & Trust in Goleta, which can be reached at (805) 964-4737.
Fellow UCSB student and friend, Mike Maclear, remembers Guidoni for his intensity and nearly unmatched intelligence.
While hanging out in his Santa Barbara abode one day, Guidoni asked Maclear to pick any book from his extensive collection, open it up to whichever chapter he liked and ask him to recall – from memory – the exact contents of the page.
Maclear said Guidoni went on to quote the section – part of an organic chemistry textbook – verbatim.
“That’s when I knew he was something different than anyone else,” Maclear said.
Jacqueline Roston, one of Guidoni’s former professors from the now-defunct UCSB Tutorial Dept., said her friend and student could champion any challenge presented to him, whether it was with languages – of which he studied several – science or even physical activity.
“I generally would meet really, really motivated, bright people,” Roston said of her work in the Tutorial Dept. “He was the most extraordinary.”
Michele Guidoni earned a degree from the UCSB College of Creative Studies in 1992 with an emphasis in biology, chemistry and psychology, said Jennifer Guidoni, who is also a UCSB alumnus. He went on to gain his Masters degree in chemisty.
He received multiple fellowships, including an Environmental Protection Agency fellowship, as well as several academic distinctions such as membership in the Psi Chi National Honor Society in Psychology. He also earned the nation’s highest Medical College Admission Test score in English and top scores in other subject areas.
Along with his many distinctions, Jennifer Guidoni said her husband was a member of Mensa – an international organization which admits individuals whose IQs rank in the top two percent of the population.
Dr. Donald Aue, UCSB professor of organic chemistry and Michele Guidoni’s advisor for roughly a decade, said Guidoni contributed valuable research and tools to his field that are still being used today.
However, Guidoni’s multifaceted talents caused him stress. As Aue said, he never seemed settled.
“His goals changed from time to time, that was part of his problem; he was good at lots of things,” Aue said. “The curse of being able to do it all is you have a hard time focusing.”
Michele Guidoni moved from career to career and sometimes geographical locations looking for a better fit, Jennifer Guidoni said. His mind could not be turned off; he was forever seeking a new challenge.
Maclear said Guidoni’s mental restlessness might have been a severe pressure that led him to take his own life.
“He was tired of fighting,” Maclear said. “If you can imagine living 39 years and never sleeping -and if you did sleep it was drug-induced – that’s what it was like.”
Jennifer Guidoni said that while she and his family mourn the man they so deeply loved, they are trying to accept Michele Guidoni’s decision, as it gave him the peace he sought.
Maclear said he is trying to accept his friend’s death, but knows Guidoni is probably in a better and happier place now.
“I’m overwhelmed with sadness,” Maclear said. “He lived the life of shining star … He was a great friend and a great husband.”