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Credit: Courtesy of Anil Chitrapu

Rising College sophomore Alex Moll died Tuesday night of cancer in a Charlotte, N.C. hospital. He was 19.

Moll, of Greenville, N.C., was diagnosed with bone cancer when he was in the sixth grade. By the time his freshman year ended, it was clear to his father, Kevin Moll, that his son wouldn’t survive much longer.

“We didn’t know how many years he was going to get,” Kevin Moll, a 1976 College graduate, said. “We got years, we didn’t get just months. We didn’t get decades but we got years.”

Kevin Moll described his son as serious and intellectually curious. Alex Moll refused to let his disease define him.

“He wanted to be seen as just a kid,” he said. But still, Kevin Moll recalled his son’s angst facing constant stress of a fatal disease. He didn’t have any illusions about his condition.

Moll and his father took a trip to California just a few weeks ago on Moll’s request. He had been born in Stanford and wanted to see the places he remembered. He loved the redwood forest.

On the trip, they drove out to the Crystal Lakes, between Stanford and San Francisco. Moll wasn’t feeling well that day. He looked over at his father and asked, “Dad, is this what dying feels like?”

At Penn, he will leave behind a legacy of someone who cared deeply for his friends.

“What really defined him is he was one of the most caring people at Penn and he, above everyone else, really listened,” rising Engineering sophomore Josef Hoenzsch, a good friend of Moll’s, said. “It was really awe-inspiring to see how he could drop everything to be able to help his friends when they really needed it.”

When Hoenzsch missed a final for health reasons, Moll reached out to him.

“Hey chief, I heard that you were still under the weather and unable to take your finals. Just wanted to send off this note and say that I hope you will be feeling better soon,” Moll said in a text message. “If there’s any way that I can help you, no matter how small, don’t hesitate to ask.”

Moll and Hoenzsch met during the PennArts pre-orientation program last summer, where they bonded over their shared passion for the music of Sufjan Stevens. After learning that Moll played cello, they decided to collaborate, playing at several open-mic nights on campus.

“I had a balcony in the Quad, so we would sit out there for hours on end just talking sometimes,” Hoenzsch said.

Moll was also a member of the Penn Undergraduate Biotech Society. His friend Anil Chitrapu, a rising College junior, said in a Facebook message that he “lived and breathed research.”

Despite his battle with cancer, Moll did not dwell on his health. “He was always so, so friendly. He was just generally an upbeat kid,” said rising College sophomore Daniel Colson, another friend from PennArts. “I didn’t have any idea he was sick. … What I think is impressive is he didn’t allow that to be the thing that defined him.”

Moll is survived by his father, his mother and a younger brother, Andrew.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Alex’s name can be made to:
Eastern Youth Orchestra, PO Box 3257, Greenville, NC 27836
or to George Mark Children’s House, 2121 George Mark Ln, San Leandro, CA 94578 ATTN: Kathy Hull.

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