Erik Colon, an academic counselor for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at Binghamton University, passed away Sunday due to health complications related to diabetes. He was 36 years old.
Colon was a BU alumnus, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in human development in 2003 and a master’s degree in social science in 2004. He was also a part of EOP as a BU student.
The EOP office held a vigil Wednesday night on campus in the Osterhout Concert Theater in the Anderson Center, where students and faculty shared stories and memories of how Colon impacted their experiences at BU, academically and personally.
Calvin Gantt, the director of EOP, spoke first and told the attendees that while it is okay to feel grief and sorrow about Colon’s passing, they should also try to remember the positivity and passion he elicited.
“It’s my hope that your grief not overshadow all the great memories that you have with your interactions with Erik,” Gantt said. “He lived his life with passion and he fought his battle with diabetes with that same level of passion. The same level of passion that he tried to instill in his students to fight for what they want.”
Colon’s wife, Ivanna Smith, ‘14, also spoke at the vigil.
“People search a whole lifetime trying to find what we had, and even if it was for a very short amount of time, I am very blessed and I am thankful,” Smith said.
Smith spoke about how touched she was that so many students reached out to her after Colon’s passing.
Other people who spoke included Colon’s students and coworkers, who told stories about his generous and dedicated personality. One story was of Colon buying a gift for his coworker’s child, earning him the nickname Santa Claus in that household.
Colon was a counselor to many students, including Nikki Caruso, a junior majoring in English, who said Colon was there for her academically and emotionally.
“Erik was my counselor but he was so much more than that,” Caruso said. “He wanted me to make the right decisions in my personal life as well as my professional life. He was my safety net on campus, and now I feel like I don’t have one.”
Eric Lee, a senior triple majoring in political science, economics and psychology, said Colon was an important role model in his life.
“On a personal level, he was the first emotionally available male figure in my life,” Lee said. “He always encouraged me to do better and to seek new opportunities. I always aspired to be him, because if you knew him, he was the type of guy who talked to everybody.”
Yaa Takyiwaa, a senior double-majoring in integrative neuroscience and comparative literature, said she felt like she could tell Colon anything, and was looking forward to catching up with him once again.
“The last conversation I had with him was last week,” Takyiwaa said. “I said to him, ‘Erik, I went to London [over the summer] and I got you a gift. I’ll give it to you next week,’ and it’s next week and obviously he’s not here anymore.”
Takyiwaa recalled a memory when she went to Colon’s office stressed out, and he began to play the song “Cheerleader” by Omi and told her that he was her cheerleader.
“All those small moments I’m going to miss the most,” Takyiwaa said.
The University will be holding a memorial service for Colon in the Osterhout Concert Theater on Wednesday, Sept. 27. Funerals will be held in Binghamton and New York City, and those dates will be announced once they’ve been finalized.