Friends and family remember UC Berkeley alum Tarek Saleh

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UC Berkeley 2011 graduate Tarek Corwin Saleh, remembered for his caring and selfless nature, died early Saturday morning in a car accident at the Emeryville Marina. He was 25.

Emeryville Police Department officers responded to the scene at 6:10 a.m. and identified Saleh after they retrieved his car from the marina, according to department spokesperson Brian Head. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Bureau later confirmed Saleh died of asphyxiation due to drowning.

Saleh, who grew up in Arizona and later attended Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, attended UC Berkeley from 2007 to 2011 and received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in Spanish literature. He was a student in the Pre-Professional Health Academic Program at CSU East Bay and had plans to work in the public health field in a Spanish-speaking country after he spent part of his undergraduate career in Central America.

Saleh’s passion for Latin culture attracted him to cultural museums, travel and music, eventually leading him to apply to a post-baccalaureate medical program in Grenada, according to former girlfriend and UC Berkeley alumna Shivani Vora. Although he did not get into the program, Saleh decided to do a post-baccalaureate program at San Francisco State University in the fall 2011 semester.

Vora said that she and Tarek met when they were living in the Sherman Hall cooperative together, during which time Tarek was an active and engaged member of the student cooperative community.

“He was very open to getting to know people, and he was close to everybody in the house,” Vora said. “He is one of the only people I know that truly and genuinely wanted to do things for other people and that made him feel good.”

Kath Delaney, Saleh’s former boss at the Madera Group and the Global Footprint Network in Oakland — where Saleh had been working up until last month in preparation for a career transition to the Peace Corps — remembers Tarek as hard working and optimistic.

“He was committed to front line social service and wanted to bring his professional and analytical and language skills to frontline humanitarian work,” Delaney said.

Saleh’s girlfriend Jessica Nario called Tarek the love of her life and said she was motivated by Tarek’s high level of energy and the intellectual connection the two shared.

“It’s really heartbreaking for me because this was our first weekend apart,” Nario said. “I didn’t know I would have to say goodbye like this … Some people say I was really lucky to have experienced this kind of love with him.”

The bonds Saleh made stemmed from the fact that he was genuine and just “awkwardly nice,” a term his close friend and former Foothill College classmate Akul Aggarwal said he and his friends fondly used when describing Saleh’s personality.

“He was really kind to a fault — in fact, he went out of his way to help whoever was there,” Aggarwal said. “He was at a transition point in his life. It would be interesting to know where he was headed.”

Funeral services are scheduled for June 2 at East Lawn Palms Mortuary followed by a burial service at All Faiths Cemetery, both in Tucson, Arizona, according to Ian Saleh, Tarek’s brother. Delaney also said friends and family are planning a ceremony later in June to take place in California.

Donations in memory of Tarek can be made to Tarek’s favorite charity Doctors Without Borders, Ian Saleh said.

“He was as selfless as he was caring, a man who sought to give rather than take even when inconvenient,” Ian Saleh said in an email. “He found his greatest joys in a well-written poem, a good game of soccer and in the company of family and friends.”

Anjuli Sastry is an assistant news editor.