Alec Becker, a first-year student in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, died by suicide Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, in his hometown of Dallas. He was 18.
Becker only attended Washington University for the fall semester, but friends and faculty who had the opportunity to know Becker say he was thoughtful, warm and spirited.
Junior Andie Zuzarte, social chair for WashU Club Gymnastic, said Becker joined the club with no experience but was eager to learn and make friends.
“Right off the bat, he became part of our community,” Zuzarte said. “At the beginning of every meeting, we do an icebreaker, and Alec always loved that. He was genuinely interested in getting to know other people. He was a really easy person to talk to.”
Zuzarte said Becker was determined to master a standing back tuck, an advanced move for a beginner. After countless failed attempts, Becker nailed it.
“He had the biggest smile afterwards,” Zuzarte said. “Alec didn’t let anything deter him. He was like, ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks. I’m going to go for it.’”
Becker brought that same sort of commitment to his studies, said Lori Watt, associate professor of history and international and area studies in Arts & Sciences. In the class, “Crossing Borders,” she asked Becker and his group to probe the ambiguity of shifting national borders. It was a tough assignment, but one Becker embraced.
“It’s a lot easier to present on a subject with a beginning, middle and an end, like the founding of the United Nations” Watt said. “But Alec possessed the conscientiousness and willingness to work through complexity and uncertainty with his teammates to create something very thought-provoking.”
Henry Roseman, a junior at the McKelvey School of Engineering, grew up down the street from Becker and called him a lifelong friend.
“He would drop absolutely everything to help absolutely anyone,” Roseman said. “He was always there for others. Even in his passing, he is a rock to his community. He showed us that we really are there for one another.”
Roseman said Becker enjoyed swimming, fishing, sailing — anything to do with water. “He even would do his homework in the bathtub,” Roseman said.
Roseman said Becker loved his time at Washington University. Still, he struggled with depression after suffering a concussion during his junior year in high school. In an obituary, Becker’s parents, Jeff and Shelley Becker, wrote that, after his concussion, their son lost the ability to feel connected with others.
“Human connections always fueled Alec, and without the nourishment of those human connections, he was in incredible pain, which he hid well as he was still unbelievably uplifting, comforting and there for others,” the Beckers said.
Roseman said Becker worked with amazing mental health professionals and battled hard against his depression. “And because of that, we had more time with Alec. I’m so grateful for that because he was a light,” Roseman said.
Funeral services were held Feb. 9 at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas. In addition to his parents, Becker is survived by his older brother, Ryan.
Students who would like mental health support or supportive counseling are encouraged to contact Mental Heath Services online or call 314-935-6695. Faculty and staff may access the Employee Assistance Program.