Peace Corps volunteer and recent UC Berkeley graduate Nicholas Castle died Thursday in China following a sudden illness. He was 23.
Castle was battling a short and unexpected illness in Chengdu, China, at the time of his death. His parents were with him in the hospital when he died.
As a Peace Corps volunteer, Castle had been teaching university-level English in Guizhou Province since August. He would have completed his service in July 2014.
“(People) talk about his passion and desire to alleviate global poverty and inequality,” said his father, David Castle. “Nick didn’t just talk about these things. He joined the Peace Corps and went to a remote part of the world to make a difference in other people’s lives.”
During his time on campus, Castle was involved in many areas of campus life. His roles included working as a resident assistant in Unit 3, a middle school tutor and a manager in the student-run entertainment program SUPERB.
“We knew how busy Nick was from morning until late at night with class and meetings,” his father said in a Facebook message. “What we didn’t realize was how he was making lifelong friendships and relationships that distance and time could not diminish.”
As “sneaks” manager for SUPERB for two years, Castle worked to bring celebrities and sneak previews of movies to campus. The group had its “best showings” last year with Castle as manager, according to UC Berkeley senior and fellow SUPERB manager Rachel Lo.
“He was always ready for a challenge, even if that meant booking a sneak preview of ‘The Rum Diaries’ with a huge talent, Johnny Depp, just five days in advance,” Lo said. “Nothing could really break him.”
Lo said that Castle always seemed to have fun and would work to make sure that others felt the same.
“He was one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met and truly had a heart of gold,” Lo said.
Castle also worked as an ASUC director for Global Outreach Week to raise awareness of social issues affecting the world, according to Sukhpreet Sembhi, a UC Berkeley senior and the deputy of Projects and Programs in the Office of the President.
“Nick was one of the most caring and impacting individuals I have met during my time at Cal,” Sembhi said. “He always took the time to stop and have a conversation with you if you ever bumped into him on campus.”
Castle graduated with a major in political science and comparative politics in 2012. He had hoped to work for the U.S. government or attend graduate school after his service in the corps, according to the Peace Corps press release.
“We have heard from so many of his Cal family from all over the world about how heartbroken and shocked they are about his sudden passing,” Castle’s father said. “We always felt, as all parents do, that our son was special. What a gift to know that his fellow Cal students and alumni felt the same.”
Castle was not only an inspiration to those on campus but also to his older brother Christopher, whom he inspired to go back to school at Berkeley City College to complete his associate’s degree.
“The only way I can think of Nick’s time here is like a shooting star,” his brother said in a Facebook message. “He was so beautiful, yet just as fast as they come, before you know it, they are gone.”
Castle is survived by his parents and three brothers who live in California.
“Nick was such a wonderful brilliant young man,” said his mother, Susan Castle, in a Facebook message. “My heart will be forever broken.”
Contact Megan Messerly at [email protected].