MIT Reexamines Campus Efforts After 2 Suicides

Ann McClure's picture

Satto Tonegawa was a bright teenager with a flair for piano and cello. Two months ago he started his freshman year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where his father is a Nobel-winning neuroscientist. He had chosen to live in a single room in an unremarkable 18-story brick dormitory off Memorial Drive.

That was where he died, asphyxiating himself with a bag full of helium. His body was found Oct. 25, five days shy of his 19th birthday.

“He was funny and cool and beyond-belief smart. We never saw him struggle even once. Probably he was too smart and too elegant to survive in this world,’’ said his mother, Mayumi Tonegawa, who added that her son returned often to the family home in Newton and seemed happy at college. “It feels like he might have just slipped into the seventh dimension, and he’ll come back someday and tell us about his journey.’’

Nicolas Del Castillo was also a talented pianist who lived in a single at MIT. He had loved math since childhood and probably would have majored in it had he finished his sophomore year. Three days before classes began in September, he closed the door of his dorm room and hanged himself. He had just turned 18.

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