Deceased July 18, 2001
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We have just learned of the passing of a classmate and dear friend, Gustavo Enrique Rivera, a man who has graced this earth for thirty-three years and has been a friend of ours for almost half of that time. Gustavo came into our lives for the first time at Amherst, in 1986 when we were young freshmen, away from home and eager to find our place in the world. It's doubtful he ever really knew then or later the impact he had on our lives. For this reason we would like to share just a few words about Gustavo.
He was terribly shy and quiet, but in his own gentle way he made a profound impact on people. If you didn't look closely enough, you might have missed him. He wasn't one to speak out in class and did almost anything to shy away from the spotlight. There was no particular thing that called attention to him, except for his quiet intelligence and gentle way. But for those of us whose attention he did grab, for those who were lucky enough to share a piece of his life, Gustavo was a treasured friend and an inspiration.
Gustavo was extremely bright, even by Amherst standards, but unless you paid attention, you might not have known that either. (You may recall him in class with his uncanny ability to twirl a Bic on the tip of his fingers as professors went on and on.) While at Columbia University Law School he was on the dean's list and at one point had the highest GPA in his class, but he was too humble to mention that. However he wasn't above admitting that law school was difficult. That is the kind of person he was.
Gustavo studied in Madrid second semester junior year but had to return home early when he became ill with Hodgkin's lymphomia. He pulled through and with that dogged determination of his, not only got better, but managed to make up the time lost to graduate with his class.
We kept in touch throughout the years. Just enough to know what the other was doing. He was a successful lawyer in a firm that allowed him to travel throughout Latin America. While he didn't always like the long hours he loved the travel and found the work interesting and rewarding.
He lived in a lovely apartment in The Village in NYC and loved this little Thai restaurant near his house. He was a wonderful son, a concerned older brother, and a caring friend. Most of all he was a gentleman (caballero) and gentle spirit.
When the opportunity arose to return to his beloved Puerto Rico and join one of the most prominent San Juan firms and make partner within a year or two, he decided to grab it. He planned to travel for four months before starting his new job. In a cruel trick, he never got the chance. Just four days after leaving his firm, he learned that his Hodgkin's disease had returned in an advanced stage. Gustavo sought treatment at Mt. Sinai in New York, and then at M.D. Anderson in Houston. However, he did not respond to the chemotherapy and passed away on July 18. A memorial service was held in San Juan a week later.
We know how we feel about Gustavo, but it wasn't until we learned of his passing that we found out what he meant to the other people he touched with his life. We feel compelled to reach out to each other and to speak about our memories of him and for this person who had such a quiet voice, but so much to say and so much to offer.
The world seems a lonelier and less interesting place without him.
Melissa Scott '90
Abigail Golden-Vazquez '90