Within the past two weeks two students have died, one from natural causes and the other from injuries sustained during an automobile accident.
Martin Medrano, 39, was a third-year transfer student from Corona who planned to double major in sociology and Chicana and Chicano studies. He died in his apartment of natural causes on Sept. 26, just two days before classes began. Meanwhile, graduate student Douglas Baker, 26, was killed in a car accident in Riverside County on Oct. 1.
According to his parents, Martin Medrano encouraged many of his peers to go on to college and was excited to attend the university.
“Everybody he met, he quickly became friends with,” Altagracia Medrano said. “If he had $10, he’d give out $9 to his friends. He was into working for the community and they wanted him back to teach at Riverside Community College.”
Martin Medrano’s father, Jorge Medrano, said his son, who had served in the U.S. Army, was awarded accolades for his humanitarian work.
“He won the All-Star Award for humanitarian aid and a Student Distinction award in leadership – he wore five medals with his cap and gown,” Jorge Medrano said. “He demonstrated high academic potential.”
Christian Villasenor, UCSB’s assistant director in transfer services, said Martin Medrano was looking forward to attending UCSB.
“He always struck me as a really nice guy and serious student, and someone with a really good attitude.” Villasenor said. “He was looking to help people, encouraging them to go onto to the university level.”
Sonya Baker, undergraduate advisor for the dept. of Chicana and Chicano studies, said Martin Medrano and his best friend – who was also transferring – were interested in getting involved on campus.
“I remember them being really excited and they stood out because [of that],” Baker said. “I remember his best friend saying he was going to carry on for the both of them.”
While driving home from an Ultimate Frisbee tournament, UCSB mathematics graduate student and Black Tide team member Douglas Baker was killed in a car accident. The car had swerved to avoid a coyote.
Medina Teel, mathematics dept. graduate advisor, said the car was transporting Baker and three other members of the team back from a tournament in Arizona, in which they had qualified for nationals. Westmont College student Will Wiersma was also killed, and the two other players in the car were hospitalized.
Teel said Baker, who was a mathematics teaching assistant, came to UCSB in the fall of 2002 and was to take his final Ph.D. candidacy exam in June 2007, with a focus on functional analysis.
“He was going to be a math professor, no question about it,” Teel said. “He was a really outstanding teacher and students absolutely adored him. He was really good at explaining math in terms that students could understand.”
According to Teel, Baker, an Illinois native, won the Residence Hall Outstanding Faculty Recognition award in 2004. Undergraduates living in the residence halls nominate and vote for their favorite teacher for the award.
The math dept. is holding a public memorial service for Baker on Thursday, Oct. 12 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. in the McCune Conference Room in HSSB.
“He had a lot left to do here and it’s a shame he wasn’t able to finish what he started,” Teel said. “He was very well-respected in our department as a grad student and teacher.”