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Celebrating the life of undergraduate Sergio Dominguez

A voracious learner, he fulfilled his dream of attending MIT like his hero, Tony Stark.
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Photo of Sergio Dominguez sitting on some steps and reading a book
Sergio Dominguez, a Course 6-9 (Computation and Cognition) major at MIT who lived in New House and later resided on East Campus, died suddenly last September.
Image courtesy of the Dominguez family.

MIT junior Sergio Dominguez “so loved learning,” says his sister Laura, that he insisted on entering elementary school a full year early. “He loved to learn new things and would spend so much time reading,” often pulling out a random encyclopedia volume and just digging in, she recalls.

Dominguez, a Course 6-9 (Computation and Cognition) major at MIT who lived in New House and later resided on East Campus, died suddenly last September. A native of El Paso, Texas, the Gates Millennium Scholar had a penchant for a wide range of intellectual pursuits, from philosophy to religion to the Japanese language. In a word, he was voracious.

“He taught me the value of dedication and perseverance,” says Aaron Aceves, a close friend from high school. “Sergio once told me you are the average of the five people you interact with the most. I am beyond honored he was one of them.”

Janae Rodriguez, who marched with him in their high school band drum line, added, “He was always so much full of hype. Whenever he saw that any of us down, he was there to lift us up.”

Appropriately, Dominguez’s admired the Marvel comic book and movie character Tony Stark, who would don his metal Iron Man suit and take flight to protect the world. “He wanted to attend MIT just like his hero did. I was super proud when he was accepted,” says friend Steve Flores.

Dominguez found community at MIT even before his first year started. He joined the Office of Minority Education’s (OME) Interphase EDGE 2016 cohort in the late summer. Lilen Uchima, assistant dean for academic excellence and professional development at OME, recalls meeting him then.

“I was lucky to be Sergio’s Interphase EDGE advisor for his first year at MIT,” she says. “Sergio had an inquisitive mind and a true passion for learning. He could chat about anything and was fascinated by all kinds of subjects and topics. We would take advantage of our check-ins to practice our Spanish and share our experiences growing up in a Latino household. He loved music and playing drums. I will miss him dearly.”

Dominguez also sought out a MISTI Mexico experience in 2017, to further explore his own and the region’s culture, language, and people. One could say he took a grassroots approach to anthropology, with a keen interest in understanding everything that made humans tick, collectively and individually.

Gloria Chry ’20, who also met Dominguez through EDGE, says, “Sergio was always a very respectful and contemplative person. He often spoke about his thoughts on reasons for the universe, how and why things happen, and he always had an innate curiosity about how other people would think. He loved to have fun with others and would be down to try any new thing, whether it be going someplace we've never been or experimenting with new recipes for dinner.”

The “joy of being part of a cook-crew schedule in La Casa” together, Chry notes, was in large part because of how Sergio would uncover secret ingredients. “I remember Thursdays fondly as a time when we could have a bit of calm together. Some people might think that four students huddled together in a large dining room on a cold, wintry night is a sad scene, but the laughter and care that was in the room with Sergio made it one of my favorite memories of our first year at MIT.”

Miri Skolnik, an assistant dean in Student Support Services, also picked up on Dominguez’s sense of adventure and pursuit of the unexpected, especially with the aim of inspiring and delighting his peers and mentors. “Sergio was deeply interested in the human mind and all its expressions, both his own and those of others,” she says. “In explaining his many insights and new discoveries with others, Sergio was exceptionally humble and modest in sharing his knowledge. Sergio was very attuned to the needs of whomever was listening to him, perceptively tuning into others to make sure that they too felt comfortable, heard, and understood.”

He was at once grounded and astute, but no less exuberant and imaginative than the source of one of his favorite quotes, the fictional Don Quixote. The quote, “Confía en el tiempo, que suele dar dulces salidas a muchas amargas dificultades,” roughly translates to “Trust time; it usually provides a sweet way out of many bitter challenges.”

Dominguez’s time at MIT was indeed sweet. “He loved MIT. He bought himself his class ring and would wear it with such joy and pride,” says his sister, the same as his icon Tony Stark did on the big screen.

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