The following is adapted from a eulogy delivered by Lillie Bushway ’24 during a Nov. 2 on-campus memorial service for Alden Powers ’24, who died in August.
This piece contains discussion of suicide.
Before coming to college last fall, one of the most nerve-wracking things I did was create a group chat for my podmates; I was nervous about leaving a bad impression on the first people I would meet at Williams. Alden Powers ’24 responded to my introduction with an enthusiastic, “Hey everyone! I can’t wait to meet you all in person! I’m from East Hampton, N.Y. Thanks for starting the chat!”
That was my first introduction to Alden’s warmth, a warmth I was privileged to have with me throughout our fall semester. He showed up to the sunrise hike I organized the day after arrival quarantine ended, inspiring me with his confidence in the outdoors. On a sunset hike a few weeks later, he gave me such a specific and thoughtful compliment that I wrote it down when I got back to my dorm. I remember that compliment to this day.
In October 2020, Alden and I ended up on a 16-mile hike, a day that has become one of my favorite memories from that entire semester. We talked throughout the hike. While we chatted about poetry and favorite children’s books — and as he impressed me with his uncanny ability to identify plants — we sped ahead of the group. The excitement of our conversation, which soon moved onto analyzing our entrymates’ soul animals, spurred us forward. Alden was easy to talk to; he made me feel welcome to be myself and made me laugh with his understated and astute sense of humor.
He was a fire, fierce and determined within. On the outside, he emanated a kindness that replaced negativity with light and allowed you to relax in his presence. As one of his entrymates, I was lucky to experience that. His Junior Advisor Huy Pham ’22 and our other entrymate Sophia Trone ’24 also remember him this way.
Huy remembers Alden as “the type of person who could immediately lighten the mood upon entrance. Although he was soft-spoken and had a very gentle personality, he also always had this cheerful and playful aura around him that drew others in and made them feel very comfortable being around him. I vividly remember relaxing in the common room during snacks and asking him how his week was going, his fierce determination while playing ultimate frisbee with the entry behind Mission Park, and his playful jokes during dinner as we were all sitting on the marble slabs next to Chapin Hall. Alden was a wonderful friend and entrymate, and I’m so honored to have had the privilege to get to know him and to serve as his Junior Advisor over the past year.”
Sophia Trone ’24 also remembers his loving presence and frisbee skills. “Alden was the most kind, positive, and genuine person I have ever met,” Sophia said. “He was amazing at playing ultimate frisbee whenever our entry would play. He brought such a warm and positive light to the entry, and I miss talking to him during entry snacks.”
Before he came to Williams, Alden attended East Hampton High School, where he played soccer and was a head writer for the school newspaper. He also worked at Amber Waves Farm on Long Island, where he taught young children about farming. Alden also spent a winter semester in Maine, splitting wood and helping do farm chores for the cabin he shared.
He brought his many talents to Williams. Alden was involved in Williams Percussion Ensemble, I/O New Music, and Zambezi, the College’s marimba band. His instructors remember Alden as a hard worker who eagerly tackled new challenges and focused on something new each week. He was a natural on the marimba.
Artist in Residence Matthew Gold, one of Alden’s percussion instructors, reflected on Alden’s love for music: “When I think of Alden Powers, I think of all of the enthusiasm and joy he brought to our musical interactions. Over the course of that fall semester when I got to know him, he eagerly jumped into all kinds of new musical challenges, and seemed to be discovering something about himself through that process. It seemed like each week he would try something new, work hard at it, bring something special to it, and gain confidence in himself. Throughout, he was humble, gracious to others, and such a warm and caring presence in our community. As a teacher, I couldn’t have really asked for anything more. He was a positive force and an inspiration to others.”
Matthew also shared another memory of encountering Alden on a hike: “One early morning last fall I happened to run into him as he was heading out on a hike and I was returning. He was with his friends, laughing, joyously meeting the day and the adventure ahead. I don’t often get the chance to see students in these moments outside of our regular interactions, but I am really glad that I had a glimpse of that side of Alden as well. He was a special person and an essential member of our community who will leave a lasting impact on all of us who were lucky enough to know him.”
Lecturer in Music Tendai Muparutsa, Zambezi’s director, reflected that he could count on one hand the number of students he has taught who are as talented as Alden. “Alden was easy to work with, very punctual, thorough, and easy on the eye,” Tendai said. “He was a smooth player in our band, a quiet storm.”
One of his fellow percussionists, TJ Watkins ’23, said that Alden was a “tenacious” and “quick learner” in percussion. “Alden was often quiet, but still had a very calm presence about him,” TJ reflected. “Just being around Alden was peaceful… When he would get really excited about something, he had a great smile, but it was pretty rare that I got to see it. I remember him as a very considerate person.”
Alden’s talents were gifts that he shared with the rest of us through his hard work. His kindness was ever-present and never burned out. I remember that, every day, he would wear crazy socks — a collage of colors and design that surprised me every time I saw him. They were, like Alden, the perfect way to light up my day.
Tragically, Alden died by suicide during the summer of 2021. When I think of him now, I cry because I miss him. But sometimes I also smile because I get to remember the 16-mile hike, when we flew by the rest of the group, buoyed by our conversation. I cry because we never went on the poetry hike we had planned together, but I smile because I was friends with someone who was so talented that he would’ve read his own poems on that hike.
I cry because I am in a world that Alden couldn’t stand to be in anymore. But I smile because, when I knew him, he made my world that much more beautiful. I cry because all I’m able to do now is remember Alden, but I smile because I got to meet him. I smile because I get to remember him.