Jose Cespedes ’12 died on Friday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital after battling liver disease for six months. He was 22.

Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster notified the Bowdoin community of Cespedes's death in an email on Tuesday afternoon. At Bowdoin, Cespedes studied history and government, and completed coursework for the government major and film minor in December. He was scheduled to receive his diploma at this year's commencement exercises, according to Foster. 

"Jose was compassionate and thoughtful," said his father, Jose E. Cespedes of Kearny, New Jersey. "He was kind, and he thought of other people first. He loved his grandparents dearly. He really loved Bowdoin also." 

Russell "Jose" Cespedes hailed from Kearny, N.J. and graduated from Kearny High School, where he served as editor of the school paper and was a member of the National Honor Society. Shortly after arriving at Bowdoin, Cespedes began writing a column for the Orient called “Country First.” The 30 articles he wrote for the Orient between 2008 and 2011 have garnered over 54,000 views. Jose also co-hosted a WBOR show called “The Right Hour," was a member of the College Republicans, and spent a summer working for the Office of Admissions.

“He was just a really giving person,” said La’Shaye Ervin ’12, recalling countless times when Cespedes would fill his car with Bowdoin students heading back from break, and how he loved to play top hits with the windows down.

“He liked to have a lot of fun, he was full of energy,” said Will Adrete ’12, who lived with Cespedes in Chamberlain Hall last year.

Cespedes had been interning with the election campaign of New Jersey Senator Joe Kyrillos earlier this year.

“He cared about his politics—he was the reason why I voted every time,” said Ervin. "We would play 'Hail to the Chief' and go to the polls. He was always involved in everything." 

“He wanted to go on to be a lawyer, that’s what his goal was. He was excited about doing that,” Adrete said.

Professor Paul Franco, who taught Cespedes in his Human Being and Citizen first-year seminar, remembered him as an articulate, courageous voice in the classroom and an ardent defender of the state of New Jersey.

"He had a great way of being firm in his convictions, but was so reasonable about how he presented them—it made the class so much better," said Franco. "There was a kind of gentleness there." 

"He was such a patriot," Franco added. "He had a love of New Jersey that defied expectations."

Elizabeth Maybank ’12 befriended Cespedes in the first week of their freshman year, when both lived in Osher Hall. She later became his editor at the Orient, working closely with Cespedes on revisions and drafts of his columns. 

“We had different personal viewpoints politically, but it didn’t matter. He was so respectful of my viewpoints, and I was always respectful of his,” said Maybank. “He always got his articles in on time, no matter what. He was just fantastic to work with.”

Maybank, like many of Cespedes' friends at the College, knew him for his good nature and welcoming smile. 

“Always smiling, always friendly—that’s what I’m going to miss most about him. It’s very rare to find people who genuinely have such great, vibrant personalities, and he was one of them,” she said.

Salma Berrada '12, a close friend of Cespedes, recalled, "I often used to tell Jose that his hug had something so unique about it, that all-enveloping hug always made it seem as though things will be alright no matter what."

Cespedes was first diagnosed with liver disease in October 2012 and was on the waiting list for a liver transplant when he died, according to his father. He had hoped to enter law school next fall. 

"He loved his friends, he really had a bright future," his father said. "He knew he wasn’t going to make it at the end, and he really wanted to have his diploma in his hands.”

Current and former students signed an online petition to award Cespedes a posthumous degree early this week. Cespedes will be recognized at the commencement exercises in May and will receive his diploma posthumously, according to Foster. 

Ervin said that she had kept in touch with Cespedes after graduation, and that his strength and confidence persisted even as his illness worsened. 

“The last time I spoke to him there was a strength in his voice,” Ervin said. "It was hard—I think to some degree, you're going to be in denial about how sick he was. He was a very, very strong person." 

According to an official obituary, his father said of Jose, “He was an angel here on earth and now he is our angel in Heaven.”

A funeral service was held at the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home in Kearny, N.J. on Wednesday morning. Berrada described how Cespedes' family spoke lovingly of him at the service, remembering his early hatred of multiplication tables and his many awards and achievements growing up.  

"His grandma, a math teacher for bilingual kids, told us about how Jose refused to go on walks with her when he was five, not [because] he hated their promenades, but he knew it meant a multiplication table drill. I guess he always knew that it would be humanities," Berrada wrote in an email to the Orient.

Cespedes was laid to rest on Wednesday afternoon in Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington, N.J. The Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home has created an online guestbook for his friends and family to commemorate his life. 

Berrada described how when she last saw him in the hospital in March, Cespedes spoke of visiting her in Morocco and detailed his plans to apply to law school .

"As soon as I heard that Thatcher had passed away, I called him, eager to discuss her legacy and a little British history," Berrada wrote. "But that debate never happened. There was no one on the other end of the line when I called and left all those voicemails. I will miss him forever."