On Friday, just days after Cal Poly student Brett Tyler’s death left many on campus in mourning, dozens of people showed up on O’Neill Green to celebrate his life.
There was a common thread in stories about Tyler’s life: He built other people up.
“He was our elevator, pushing our buttons, right on so many levels, never letting us down, always going up in the world,” said Chad Lagomarsino, Tyler’s friend and a fifth-year bio-medical engineering student at Cal Poly.
Tyler was a junior studying business administration at Cal Poly. He was found dead of natural causes in his campus apartment Monday night.
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Tyler’s family, including his father, Rob; mother, Karen; and brother Ivan, attended Friday’s gathering.
“He didn’t see anything as impossible. He just knew if you can get the right people together, you can do anything,” Rob Tyler said, adding that his last conversation with his son ended with the words, “I love you.”
He urged those in attendance to never let a conversation with loved ones end without those words.
Others who spoke during Friday’s emotional gathering included Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong, Associated Students Inc. President Riley Nilsen and Faculty Director Jonathan York.
One former teacher called Tyler “the soul of the class.”
Many others praised Tyler’s strong work ethic, impeccable dress and fondness for wordplay. He was often called “the pun-dit,” York said.
Tyler’s friend Hillary Bright, a Cal Poly junior English major, told The Tribune about the time she met Tyler at Week of Welcome. “How much does a polar bear weigh? Enough to break the ice. Hi, I'm Brett,” Bright recalled Tyler saying.
York said Tyler was also called a “renaissance man” and someone who always thought outside the box because “he never could get into the box.”
With many grieving Tyler’s loss, Armstrong called on the campus community to bond together and seek grief support if needed.
“We want to help in any way we can as you go through this. Not just the family, but the Cal Poly family,” he said.
Counseling services are available for students by calling 805-765-2511. The Employee Assistance Program, which provides counseling services to Cal Poly employees and their families, has a 24-hour support hotline at 800-367-7474.
Reporter Gabby Ferreira contributed to this story.