UC Berkeley law student dies from leukemia, remembered for intellectual curiosity

Nathan Berry, a student at the UC Berkeley School of Law, died April 11 at the age of 34. Berry had been diagnosed with leukemia three years earlier.

Berry was a veteran who had been stationed in Korea for more than eight years. After retiring from the military, he began law school at the University of Arizona and then transferred to Berkeley Law in the fall of 2015, according to Berkeley Law’s dean of students Annik Hirshen. Berry was a third-year student who would have graduated with the class of 2017.

His mother, Linda Berry, remembers him as a determined, intellectual and devoted young man. She described her son as a resilient fighter who had many goals he wanted to accomplish but, unfortunately, wasn’t able to fully realize.

“He loved to study, he loved learning and he was very loyal. He was a loyal son,” Linda Berry said. “He was very devoted to his family.”

After years of living with leukemia, Berry had taken the spring 2017 semester off to receive chemotherapy treatment.

During his time at Berkeley Law, he mentored second-year student Nam Phan when they both worked at the Berkeley Journal of International Law in 2016. Berry sought to help those around him in whatever capacity he could, according to Phan.

Phan said in an email that Berry’s biggest wish was to live a healthy life with his wife, Yeonsil. He added that he remembers Berry for being very optimistic and driven.

“He was very positive too,” Phan said in an email. “He always hoped that his condition would improve so he could get back to finish law school.”

UC Berkeley law professor Kenneth Ayotte taught Berry corporate finance in the spring 2016 semester. The two would discuss Berry’s struggle with leukemia after class and continued their correspondence over email once Berry left law school for treatment, Ayotte said. He said Berry was brave, humble and inquisitive.

“He struck me as somebody who wanted to learn for the sake of learning and not just for a grade,” Ayotte said in an email.

Berry had secured a summer internship at Starn, O’Toole, Marcus and Fisher law firm in Hawaii, according to Ayotte.

Berry also worked as a legal intern at the Congressional Budget Office in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2015. His supervisor, T.J. McGrath, said she remembers Berry as “energetic, inquisitive and very kind.” She added that Berry had mentored other interns and encouraged them to attend law school.

“I would like to remember him as how we saw him in the office, which was engaged,” McGrath said. “Engaged in life, engaged in activity and engaged in the work and intellectually curious about everything.”

Contact Ananya Sreekanth at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @asreekanth_dc.