Aaron Tinker, GS ’15, died on Aug. 16 at his home in Huntington Beach, Calif. The U.S. Army veteran and father of three was 29.
Tinker, originally of Effingham, Ill., served in the Army for five years, deploying to Iraq, before starting at Columbia in spring 2011. He achieved sergeant distinction and won the Purple Heart Award for his service, according to Tinker’s academic adviser Ana Maria Ulloa, an assistant dean of students at the School of General Studies.
His cause of death was still under investigation as of Sunday night, the Orange County, Calif., coroner said.
Ulloa said in an email that she remembers Tinker for both his kind personality and his dedication to his academics.
“Aaron always had a smile on his face,” Ulloa said. “He was kind, responsible, and committed to completing his degree at Columbia. He was very proud to be here.”
GS students were notified of his death in an email from Leslie Limardo, the acting dean of students.
“I know that all of you join me in sending our deepest condolences to Aaron’s family, friends, and colleagues,” Limardo wrote. “Whenever we lose someone within the Columbia community, we are all affected by it, whether or not we know the person well.”
A memorial service was held in Effingham on Aug. 23. Tinker will be buried later this fall with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. GS will also hold an on-campus memorial within the next month.
Ulloa said that Tinker, who planned to major in sociology and eventually attend law school, was not only distinguished by his military service but also by his enthusiasm for his professors and classes.
“Aaron always sat in the front row of his classes and kept me up to date on his successes,” Ulloa said. “He loved engaging in conversation with his professors, and he made sure they got to know him.”
Ulloa said friends and family would most strongly recall his caring attitude toward those he loved.
“Aaron will be remembered for his joyful personality,” Ulloa said. “He enjoyed nothing more than spending time with the people he loved, especially his three children.”