During Quaker Days last year, rising Wharton sophomore Jerry Sun entered the Penn scene when a ceiling panel almost fell on top of him during a speaker event. He jumped out of the way just in time and checked to see that the girl next to him was unharmed. In that moment when no one knew how to react, Sun laughed. Seeing him make light of the situation, the crowd of nervous students relaxed and immediately joined him in laughter — an unexpected ice breaker for the prospective Class of 2023.
“Anybody else would’ve been so rattled and scared, but I will never forget, Jerry was like ‘I’ve only been in this place for 45 minutes and they’re already trying to take me down,’” rising Wharton and College sophomore Rishin Sharma said with a laugh.
Rising Wharton sophomore Dhruv Gomber added the incident was a great picture into who Jerry was as a person.
"He’s just so carefree and enjoyable," he said.
Members of the Penn community are mourning the loss of Sun, 19 years old, who died on July 25 after his car collided with an International Bus in Colorado while on a hiking trip. Close friends of Sun said rising Wharton sophomore Heerin Seo was also in the car and presumably taken to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.
The crash is under investigation, and alcohol and speed are not factors in the accident, according to Canon City Daily Records.
“I have no doubts that those who know Jerry will find their own special way to honor his memory and his legacy at Wharton. May he rest in peace,” Wharton Dean Erika James said during the virtual support session on Aug. 3, attended by more than a couple dozen students.
Gomber recalled the first day of MGMT 101: Introduction To Management recitation. The classroom was quiet and no one knew each other, but Sun confidently walked in with a big smile and started introducing himself to everyone and the TA. His eagerness to meet new people and befriend his peers immediately became apparent to rising College sophomore June Lin when Sun approached her at Hill Dining Hall, after recognizing her from their writing seminar class. He asked if she wanted to work on a class assignment together.
“Jerry is the kind of guy where he’ll talk to you as if you guys were childhood friends the first time you meet him,” Sharma said. “You feel like you’ve known him for a really long time the first time you see him.”
Fitting with his energetic, uplifting personality, Sun loved to dance. His friends said you could easily find him in the middle of the dance circle at a party. Coming from high school where he was a big dancer, rising Wharton sophomore Avideep Pradhan, who was Sun's roommate, said Sun confidently auditioned for Penn’s major dance teams such as Hype Dance Crew and Strictly Funk. When he failed to make the teams, Pradhan recalled with a laugh that Sun was extremely determined to make a dance team the next year. Sun attended dance teams’ workshops and quickly garnered the nickname “new Jerry,” Pradhan fondly recounted.
“He had a way of uplifting everyone’s spirits around him through his humor and happiness,” rising Wharton sophomore Aman Solanki, who was in Cohort Rand with Sun, said. “In the too little time that some of us knew him, he made a huge impact in our lives.”
Critical Writing Program lecturer Kathleen Kramer, who taught Sun in Critical Writing Seminar: The Politics of Design this spring, was not aware of Sun's death prior to speaking with The Daily Pennsylvanian. Shaken up by the news, Kramer said Sun was a natural leader and excelled in the class, but above all, she recalled how much his family meant to him.
“He shared that the first thing that he remembered writing for school was an assignment in elementary school, and it was a letter to his dad, and I just thought that was so neat that here he is, at this high powered educational Ivy [institution], and he was happy to talk about this letter that he wrote to his dad that was very personal and not something that a lot of students will share,” Kramer said.
Pradhan said during one of their many late-night talks, he asked Sun what he thought the meaning of life was, to which Sun responded, “family and friends.”
“Just coming from a Chinese immigrant family and working very hard, coming to his dream school, Wharton, and having worked so hard, he’s the guy who goes out there and works hard to achieve what he wants to achieve, and to make his family proud,” Pradhan said. “He just had a lot of potential to do great things. I don’t even know what to say. Just to think that he can’t do that now. Life is just unfair.”
Sun is survived by his parents, an older sister, and a dog named JJ, or Jerry Junior.
Although he was not religious when he arrived at Penn, rising Wharton sophomore Dylan Casey said Sun turned to Christianity after meeting Seo who regularly attends Grace Covenant Church. He soon became an avid member of GCC and joined the church’s dance team.
As a “very entrepreneurially minded person,” Pradhan said Sun had started a small candle business in high school and recently co-founded HJ Supplies with Seo to provide people with COVID-19 protective supplies.
Alike his entrepreneurial mindset, Pradhan described Sun as relentlessly hardworking. Even though he knew the material, Pradhan said Sun would attend every STAT 101: Introductory Business Statistics lecture and motivate him to not miss a day of class as well. Sun would help his other peers both inside and outside the classroom, which Kramer echoed about him in writing seminar.
Gomber added that Sun constantly encouraged him to take challenging classes, and at one point, messaged Gomber every day to take CIS 160: Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science, a course Sun was taking at the time for his computer science minor.
“He really taught me to think of classes and everything in life as challenging yourself, taking on opportunities that are intellectually stimulating, and just learning more and learn something new every day,” Gomber said.
Sun was a member of campus groups including the Wharton Management Club, Wharton Private Equity and Venture Capital Club, Wharton Giving Society, and Wharton Asia Exchange.
Pradhan said Sun was most enthusiastic about WAX, which he regularly attended and was a member of the group’s Communications committee and Special Situations investment team.
“Jerry was bright and had a genuine love for connecting with others,” WAX wrote in a statement to the DP. “He was always quick to volunteer and brought so much energy to the WAX community. His infectious laugh and cheerfulness will be missed.”
Rising Engineering sophomore Jerry Gao said because he and Sun had the same first name, he called Sun by his last name to avoid confusion and realized just how fitting the name was to Sun’s character.
“He was this source of energy that really emanated out to everyone, regardless of what environment or situation he was in,” Gao said. “He was always super exuberant, and he had a contagious, bright positivity that made him shine bright like the sun.”
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