SMU community remembers Jaime Shim

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On Oct. 4 in the Hughes-Trigg Theatre, the SMU community gathered to honor the memory of Jaime Shim after the announcement of his death on Sept. 29.

The service opened with Chaplain Stephen Rankin praying. Once complete, friends and family of Shim gave tributes commemorating his life.

SMU student Taysha Silva spoke first. She said Shim was her best friend. Silva gave a teary tribute, thanking the SMU community and those who were in attendance for their support.

“I’m saddened at the loss of Jaime, but very grateful for the time I spent with him,” she said.

After Silva, SMU student Michael Nguyen gave three short stories about Jaime.

Nguyen told the story of Shim standing up to a middle school bully who he later tutored and earned his respect; he also told stories of how Shim interacted with his friends, and how he demanded the highest achievement of himself.

Overall, he said Shim “lived a life of integrity.”

After Nguyen, SMU political science professor Joseph Kobylka spoke about Shim’s “boyish enthusiasm” exhibited through his love of animals and wrestling with dogs.

Kobylka also said he remembers how Shim would bring candy to every office hours he attended as a thank you gift. He spoke of Shim’s work ethic, saying he “immersed himself in his work” to the point that he didn’t eat lunch with the group during a Washington D.C. trip.

While reminiscing, Kobylka said it was very sad when he saw Shim’s zeal starting to wane as his troubles increased, but would still “remember him as living with enthusiasm.”

At the end of the ceremony, Shim’s father Jae Shim, unexpectedly decided to address the audience.

He spoke about his son’s birth, saying he was “born premature” and was considered a “miracle” for surviving. Shim continued to describe his son’s life as “wearing an uncomfortable set of clothes” where he was burdened from an early age with stress, migraines and not fitting in.

Shim proceeded to read the letters of his son’s last words recovered from his computer by SMU police.

“I’m so so so so so sorry,” he said. “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Shim ended the ceremony addressing Jamie directly.

“I understand you fully son,” he said. “You did what was right for you.”

Almost a month after his passing, friends and mentors of Shim continue to think of him and the positive impact he had on their lives. The following is a compilation of testimonies by SMU community members.

On Character

“When I first met Jaime in the fall of 2014, I thought he was a cynical and abrasive person. As I became his friend, I realized that I misunderstood Jaime’s character. Jaime once told me that he admired people who inspired him to become a more moral version of himself. Jaime’s desire to be a good person ran deep. He once told me a story about his time in elementary school – after learning about the bad behavior of another student, Jaime told his desk partner that he hoped he didn’t turn out to be a bad person. Recounting the story now, Jaime said to me ‘I guess that didn’t work out’” – Michael Nguyen, friend and classmate of Shim

“Some of the most valuable relationships you develop in college are those that challenge you intellectually and academically. The drive and brilliance of these people bowls you over at first, but then completely inspires you. Jaime Shim was one of these people; in fact, he exemplified this type of person more than any other student I’ve met at SMU. For example, one time I asked Jaime if he had listened to the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on Obergefell v. Hodges, the big same-sex marriage case from last year. Not only had he listened to them, but he casually started chatting about a certain justice’s entire oral argument comment history as it related to prior 14th amendment LGBT cases.” – Anton Nemirovski, friend and classmate of Shim

On Family Relations

“Although Jaime had experienced conflicts with his parents growing up, he felt a profound sense of gratitude and duty towards his parents. As he endured his depression, Jaime told me that he realized how his parents unconditionally loved him.” – MIchael Nguyen, friend and classmate of Shim

On Work Ethic

“I remember a paper of Jaime’s that I peer-reviewed for a class a few semesters ago. What immediately struck me about this paper was not just the clear strength of its general substance, but also the enthusiasm and obvious care with which he presented his thoughts. This was someone who knew how to write, and who was by extension able to channel brilliant, well-researched ideas in unique and impressive ways.” – Anton Nemirovski, friend and classmate of Shim

“Jaime began serving as an “ESL Volunteer” for my classes in fall 2014. Over three semesters, he and Silva participated regularly in ESL 6001/6002 Seminar for International Teaching Assistants, interacting with students and enriching the sessions with their enthusiasm and humor. The students adored them both. One lucky student even snagged Jaime as a “Speaking Partner” for practice outside of class.” – Linda Evans, SMU professor of English as a Second Language

“Studying with him left a similar impression. We would meet up the night before a midterm, and while I would use the occasion to frantically cram everything, Jaime would already have an astonishingly tight grasp on the material, and would instead spend the time bouncing different ideas off me so that he could better structure the in-class essay he’d be writing the next day.” – Anton Nemirovski, friend and classmate of Shim

On Remembrances of Jaime

“By spring 2015, Jaime was also contemplating an Engaged Learning project, writing a graphic novel memoir in the Korean “webtoon” comic style about his life. It was then that I learned of his earlier struggles and self-doubt, and eventual happiness and peace with his identity. His eloquent EG blog post, ‘The Moth Who Shot for the Moon: One Transguy’s Search for Closure,’ touched me deeply. In hindsight, I wish I had let Jaime know that I’d read it and respected him all the more. Checking in with former volunteers each semester, I heard back from Jaime in spring 2016 that he had developed health problems and would be out for that semester, but wished to be contacted again in the fall. Follow-up messages to inquire how he was doing went unanswered. The news of his death brought overwhelming sadness. Along with all who cared about him, I will miss Jaime and do everything possible to keep his memory alive.”- Linda Evans, SMU professor of English as a Second Language

“Few people I have known were as argumentative as Jaime. From first meeting him to his end, I was always struck by Jaime’s dynamism and vitality. Jaime’s dynamism and vitality shone through with little things such as his ability to walk incredibly fast and in more important matters which included his willingness to vigorously dispute any statement that he thought was illogical.” – Michael Nguyen, friend and classmate of Shim

“When I first met Jaime Shim he was a mentor for discernment and discourse students under the University Honors Program. Jaime was kind and forthcoming; he believed in the best of us and his critiques of our papers reflected that. That was not the only place Jaime gave his personal time to help students, he was also one of the editors for Dialogue, an undergraduate political science journal at SMU. It is fair to say Jaime left a lasting impression on me and many others. He was warm, his dedication was admirable, and he was tremendously intelligent. He had the capacity to make the world a much better place, and what he did for those of us at SMU certainly reflected that.” – Fairooz Adams, friend of Shim

“I had never met a student with this combination of intelligence, curiosity, and tenacious will to present his brilliance in the best way he could. He will be missed by all who were lucky enough to meet him.” – Anton Nemirovski, friend and classmate of Shim

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