Former UC Berkeley student Jeffrey Thomas Engler, remembered for his positivity and compassion for others, died Saturday at the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house in Berkeley. He was 22 years old.
Engler was pronounced dead at Pi Kappa Phi fraternity Saturday morning. Berkeley Police Department is conducting an ongoing investigation into his death.
An enrolled student at Laney College and former UC Berkeley student, Engler studied bioengineering. He was an active member of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and a former member of the UC Berkeley marching band’s tuba section. He grew up in San Leandro and was known for his love of hiking and the outdoors.
“I’ll miss his smile, his love for the outdoors and just the fact that like it always seemed that no matter what he got out of other people, he seemed to give them more in return,” said campus junior Eric Butler. “(Engler was) probably the most generous and open-hearted person I’ve ever met.”
To his sister Caity Engler, Jeffrey Engler was a brother, a friend, a fighter, a coach, a computer genius and a musician.
“Everyone remembers him as a guy who was always giving, always smiling, always encouraging others,” Caity Engler said in an email. “His adventurous spirit, his crazy poetry, his unique view of the world, I am thankful for it all.”
Once, Jeffrey Engler — known to his sister as “Tommy” — became “violently ill” with the flu the morning that he and his sister planned to hike in the Grand Canyon, his sister recalled. Still, he insisted on going through the hike, pushing through his continuing sickness. A week later, they hiked through deep snow in Yosemite in shorts and T-shirts. Caity Engler said she remembers her brother’s deep appreciation for the world around him and said there was “no getting him to stay in the cabin.”
“He had like, this insane lust for life — he was so amazed and appreciative of getting to be on this earth,” Butler said.
Butler met Engler during his freshman year on campus in UC Berkeley’s marching band, Cal Band. Later, they became brothers in the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, where Engler became his fraternity “big brother.”
Describing Engler as a natural people-person, Butler said he was someone that always went out of his way to make others smile. Some of his favorite memories with Engler were “just some of the late nights spent hanging out and talking.”
In high school, Engler was an active student representative on the San Leandro Unified School District School Board, and helped lead a grassroots campaign that led to major renovations at San Leandro High School.
Alex Faynleyb, another member of Pi Kappa Phi, also remembers Engler for his friendship, compassion and their long conversations about “sports, the universe, quantum computing — basically anything and everything.”
Faynleyb noted that Engler had one of the most “positive” and “vibrant” personalities he had ever seen. He recalled a time when Engler convinced Faynleyb to accompany him on a spontaneous trip to San Francisco. On the way there, Engler lost his wallet on BART, but Engler was determined to push past the disappointment and have a good time with his friends.
“That’s the kind of person Jeff was,” Faynleyb said. “He lived everyday as if it were his last and appreciated even the smallest things in life.”
Luke Doylemason, a former member of the Pi Kappa Phi chapter at San Francisco State University, met Engler during Engler’s freshman year. Although the two attended different schools, Doylemason remembers Engler’s generosity and wisdom, speaking to the ease with which he formed strong connections with those around him.
“He had a logic that was steps above everyone in the room, but he never looked down on anyone for it,” Doylemason said. “He always spoke with honesty and clarity, and you could always tell you got the truth from him.”
Engler is survived by his parents, Jeni Engler and Jerry Engler, his sister Caity Engler, and his brother Michael Engler.
Contact Elaina Provencio at [email protected].