For Sam Jenkins ’19

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Ethan Yoo

It really is impossible for me to fully describe my roommate and best friend Sam Jenkins, especially so soon after his tragic death. He was generous, willing to switch rooms partway through our fourth semester living together so I could get an emotional support dog for my clinical depression and anxiety. He was funny, making me laugh even when I wasn’t feeling great.

We first talked in August over Facebook: the first three lines of chat (disregarding my responses) were in typical Sam fashion: Hey Ethan, looks like we’ll be roommates this year; hopefully I don’t drive you too crazy; [and] do you like video games? He didn’t drive me too crazy, although living with him certainly had its quirks: “Good night!” “Sam, it’s 8:30 PM,” or “Ethan, I didn’t want to tell you this, but I woke up in the middle of the night and really had to pee. I didn’t want to go to the bathroom so I used your plant.”

“I will need you to bring me (insert object I had reminded him to take but he had refused, e.g. sweatshirt, textbook) after all.” He wasn’t the only one in our relationship who forgot things though, and he was always willing to do the same for me.

We certainly had too many trips to see doctors together. We went together to a doctor in Media for an injury he procured during “hall soccer,” and to the emergency room twice (once apiece) for varied reasons.

We talked about anything and everything, and we introduced a number of things to each other: “Big Bang Theory”, “Bob’s Burgers”, “Firefly”, “Hearthstone”, “Rick and Morty”, “SpeedRunners”, “Star Wars”, VGHS, and various YouTubers, to name several.

We poked fun at each other for our MMORPGs of choice (him, WoW; me, RuneScape) — even getting Christmas sweaters of our respective games to see whose ugly sweater would receive more recognition and thus win the right to brag.

And of course, in talking about Sam, one can never leave out his backpacks or his clothes. He helped me feel more comfortable wearing clothes that “might” make a person stand out (read: maroon pants, floral shirt, and bow tie), and he inspired me to get a Camelbak backpack to fuel the “addiction” to water (and flavor enhancers) he had created within me.

I was happy to introduce him to Balinese Gamelan, and he developed close relationships with our professor Tom Whitman as well as fellow member Isaiah Thomas — the person responsible for matching us as roommates in the first place; we thanked him several times for that.

I can say with the utmost certainty that Sam was a positive influence in the lives of everyone who met him … except when he used his blender at 6:30 in the morning and my neighbors and I wanted to strangle him – we even concocted plans to destroy that blender. Side story related to the blender: he used his comforter as a muffler once until I pointed out there was smoke coming out from the blender.

Don’t worry though, because I drove him a little crazy too! “Sam, you have to get off your computer/phone/other electronic device, you have a concussion,” “But World of Warcraft!” “Ethan, just say yes or no, do you want me to put on headphones?”

I want to thank his family for raising such a wonderful person; it was an honor to know him and a privilege to live with him for the last year and a half. Like his family has said, “he lived a full life,” but he will remain sorely missed by many. I would love to keep talking about Sam, keeping him alive through our memories. I mean that; please talk with me about him and what you remember of him if you feel so inclined!

 

Istra Fuhrmann

Sam was the happiest, most vibrant kid and one of my first close friends at Swarthmore from the day we started living next to each other in a close-knit all freshman hall. He operated on a whole different level from everyone else and thought up the wildest ideas and pranks and games. We bonded early on over our shared musical taste (especially Gorillaz and Daft Punk) and love of indie games, and I was soon spending most of my days in his room because he liked to have friends nearby as he studied. Sam added liveliness to even mundane activities like walking from our dorm to Sharples: he once had us push him in a shopping cart as he played air horn sounds, or another time raced me back on his skateboard as I ran in flip flops. He was Buddhist but loved Christmas, insisting on playing Christmas music way earlier than anyone else. His elaborate Christmas wish lists were only surpassed by the thought he put into presents for other people months in advance. He lived unreservedly and left a lasting imprint on me and everyone around him. My deep sadness over his passing must be only a fraction of what his sophomore-year blockmates and closest friends are feeling, and I would urge the Swarthmore community to have understanding and compassion. Sam’s loss will be felt very heavily, and I believe for him that his spirit lives on.

 

Emily Kibby

Samuel Miles Jenkins was and is an indescribable force in many people’s lives. He’s so much more than words could ever hope to convey. If you have never met him, then I’m sorry. You missed out. I met him on the first day of freshman orientation, even before I met my roommate. I was apprehensive at first, worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with this incredibly energetic and positive person. We were neighbors and friends from then on, and he certainly brought a lot of fun, laughter, and excitement to life at Swarthmore. Sam was the sort of person who didn’t walk into your life so much as he burst into it with a flash of color and energy and a funky tune. Once you knew him there was no forgetting him. Everything he did, from the clothes he wore to the things he said to his crazy shenanigans, was unforgettable. He never did anything halfway, and he certainly didn’t live halfway either. Once he had a goal in mind, he was absolutely committed and unshakeable in his pursuit of it. But he never let his goals stop him from enjoying life and having fun and doing what he loved. If anything, one of the things he was most dedicated to was making something special out of each day and bringing joy to others. He certainly succeeded in that. I could always count on him to jump into my room to tell me a bad joke or show me a ridiculous video or do something to make me laugh. There were no bounds to the things Sam was interested in or to his creative imagination. He could turn anything into a good story, either by telling it or by simply being a part of it. There are so many stories, so many things I’m going to miss about him. Like the way he hid in the cabinet above my roommate’s closet on move-in day this August and made us bring people into the room so he could spook them. Or the time he wore a box and a Santa hat around campus and surprised people. How he would get so focused on video games that he wouldn’t even notice me blowing bubbles at him from the doorway. Or the one time I jokingly told him to come to volleyball warmups instead of the actual game so he would get to see me play — and then he actually showed up, because that’s the kind of friend he was, even to this awkward girl that he barely knew but lived next to. All of the conversations we had about Lord of the Rings or Disney or the fact that our playlists were uncannily similar, invariably occurring at times when we both had a thousand other things we were supposed to be doing. The way he was instantly recognizable anywhere around campus by his very distinct style of dress.

He was such a genuine, joyful, and passionate spirit who left an imprint wherever he went. Sam was a million things, but most importantly, he was completely and utterly himself. He was and is incredibly loved, and it has been a privilege and a blessing to have known him and call him a friend. In the same way that Sam himself was indescribable, so too is the sense of loss that his friends and family experience without him, and the joy that he brought with him wherever he went.

 

Krista Smith-Hanke

I made an offhand comment in class one day that my computer was running slow and that I was going to have to take it to ITS, which was a huge pain. An hour later I found a onesie-clad Sam walking next to me to come take a look at it. We didn’t know each other at all, it was our first semester at Swarthmore, but here he was making the trek all the way from Pearson to Hallowell just to see if he could help. We sat on my bed for 3 hours while he fiddled with my laptop and tried to convince me to get a PC, which I told him I would never do. Sam tried to explain what he was doing while he worked, but he was too smart for me and it all went over my head. He rebooted my computer and went to dinner, leaving me with a set of detailed instructions on what to do when it turned back on. It never turned back on and I ended up taking it to ITS the next day. Turns out something had gone very wrong and Sam completely deleted the operating system off of my computer. When I told him he laughed and said, “That wouldn’t have happened on a PC!”

 

Sarah Rubinstein

My first interaction with the eccentric and oddly charming Samuel Jenkins came in the form of an accusation on the first day of freshman orientation.  With furrowed eyebrows, he pointed to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shell backpack that my mother had begged me not to wear in public and accused me of stealing it from him.  Before I could think of a witty, sarcastic response to what I could only assume was mockery, his face lit up like a Christmas tree.  He bolted down the hallway and darted into the last room only to emerge with the same backpack and a goofy smile painted on his face.  It was in that moment that I knew I’d found a best friend.  Never in my life had I been so grateful for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

That same night, we sprinted through the entire dorm wearing our backpacks and Ninja Turtle masks, making people laugh and the RAs cry.  The Leonardo to my Michelangelo, we became partners in crime, pulling pranks on the hall and wreaking havoc daily.  From putting a bungee chair on top of his skateboard and giving people rides down the hallway to vaulting over trash cans in Batman onesies to exploring the Crum during reading week when we should have been studying, we bonded in a wonderfully impossible way.  I felt like I had found a kindred spirit.

Our connection started off as a performance, two goofy kids with the same children’s backpack who liked to put on a show, and that’s how it usually was to the public eye.  But it was so much more than that.  Sam was one of the best friends a person could ever wish to have, indulging my silliness and teaching me what it truly meant to live and love fully.  There was something so inherently special and inspiring about his spirit and determination to never do anything halfway; he lived more in his twenty years than some people do in all their lives.  The world will never know another human being like Sam Jenkins, and I am a better person for having known him.  No time would have felt like enough time, but I am confident that his love of life and radiant spirit will continue to live on through our stories and our Ninja Turtle backpacks.  I love you, Sammy.

Joshua Collin

Sam Jenkins was the man. From the first time I met my roommate and best friend on Willets third in his yellow khakis and bright pink shirt, to the last time I saw him playing Overwatch on his signature exercise ball, Sam always remained true to himself and the ones he loved. It didn’t matter the day, the time, or the circumstance, Sam treated everyone around him with a genuine care and affection that could turn the toughest of days into the easiest of obstacles.

I was blessed to know Sam for 2 months and in that time, he always felt like a brother to me. If I had a problem or needed any advice he would take time out of the task he was performing to aid me in any way he could. In addition to his selfless nature Sam was one of the most mindful and hardest working individuals I ever met. Every day I witnessed Sam approach any endeavor he undertook with an open mind, an open heart, and a deep fervor and passion. This energy and appreciation he exuded in all his endeavors was nothing short of amazing.

I’ll never forget the times Sam and I played video games, talked about life, watched Futurama, played basketball or ate together. I’ll cherish those moments for the rest of my life. It’s been hard knowing I won’t be able to see his warm smile, hear his voice or spend time with him, but I know Sam is in a much better place. My mother once told me that God puts certain people in our lives for a reason and I believe Sam was put into my life and all our lives as an inspiration to enjoy our life to its fullest and to forever love and remain true to who we are.

 

Ruth Elias

Since Sam died a few days ago, I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve been doing okay. And I think I finally have figured it out.

Sam left so much of himself behind in this world. He left his enthusiasm and positivity — I don’t know anyone else who would inspire so many laughs even after he had passed. He’s still taking care of us and scolding us in our heads about drinking more water. There’s an echo of Sam in every friend of his I talk to, whether it’s a turn of phrase or just genuine kindness like Sam always had. He literally left his heart behind, to save someone else’s life.

From my second interaction with Sam, I could tell that he was one of the most amazing people I would ever meet. I missed class, and asked Sam, a kid I had briefly spoken to once, for the notes, and he sent them to me in a document named FeelBetterRuth.pdf. We kept talking all evening that day, and then we kept talking nonstop until last Friday.

Sam was one of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever met, both about his own interests (mostly video games and balancing on things) but also about other people. He would get genuinely excited whenever anything good happened to a friend of his, and he loved sharing others’ happiness. He was selfless to the point of staying up until 5:00AM to talk to me when I needed him (eight hours past his usual bedtime), and when I told him he didn’t need to, he said he knew that, and of course he would stay up.

He left behind in me his enthusiasm and his positivity and his overwhelming love of life and friends (and hydration), and I know I’m never going to lose him.

Bekah Katz

If you asked Sam to describe himself in as few words as possible, he’d probably give you the tagline he made up for the game design studio he wanted to own; “Designer of meaningful fun!” When The Phoenix asked me to write a small, 300-word piece for their beautiful in-memorium segment, I knew it wouldn’t be enough. You can’t fit Sam Jenkins into 300 words. To even try would be an insult to his very character. Even this won’t be enough, but it’s a start.

Someone asked me the other day how Sam and I met, and I couldn’t really come up with an answer. “I think Ride the Tide?” I answered in more of a question than a response. But over the past few days I have been able to resurrect my earliest memory of Samuel Miles Jenkins.

Flashback to senior year of high school during that awkward time when you’ve been accepted to college and you’re trying to connect with people over various forms of social media. Everyone is interacting with everyone, all bright-eyed and excited to meet people, and Facebook groups are just a flurry of comments and vague representations of online personalities with no real substantial person attached to them. Sam was one of those people that never really introduced himself, but had a habit of just sharing bad puns and emojis of turtles on various statuses. It was the puns that really drew me to him, but we never had any direct interaction.

Now flash forward to Ride the Tide (presently Swat Struck), April 23rd, 2015. Parish Hall is buzzing with prospective students gathered in the Admissions Commons for a game night, and a small group of them are playing Cards Against Humanity. With so many exciting and enticing events going on that night, somehow the stars aligned and both Sam and I ended up in that little circle. I don’t remember much about that night, but what I do remember is this: a lanky blond-haired boy wearing pink flowered pants crouched down in the middle of the circle holding a handful of cards and distributing them around. When he got to me, he looked me dead in the eye, smiled widely and said, “Hey! You’re Bekah, right? I’m your internet stalker!” and then shuffled quietly away, bobbing his head up and down and singing some silly little song, very content with what he had just said. I think I just started laughing and didn’t say anything or even realize who he was. Later that night I got a completely random message from him via Twitter DM (yeah, Sam Jenkins slid into my DM’s way early on) about how terrified he was that the cockroach climbing up the wall of the dorm he was staying in was going to attack him in his sleep, and how much he loved turtles.

We kept in touch a little bit over the summer and I learned a little bit more about his turtle obsession, and then I didn’t hear from him for a while. We met, and then we fell out of touch. It was the classic going-to-college sort of friendship where you meet someone on Day One and think “this person is going to be my Best Friend Forever,” and then orientation week comes along and you think that about ten more people, and then you start classes and you add fifteen more people to the list, and eventually you start to settle on who actually will be your Best Friend Forever, and for me, Sam wasn’t on that list. We just never reconvened after that day at Ride the Tide.

And then for some reason, we reconnected. It was dinner time one night in November of 2016, just after Thanksgiving, and I was walking to Sharples with one headphone in as dusk settled around campus. I saw someone walk by me and didn’t really process it, but vaguely heard someone say “Hey Bekah!” and muttered “hey” in response, staring at my phone. Something caught my eye and I turned around after he passed and yelled “Hey! Who was it that said that? I wasn’t paying attention!” He yelled back “Sam!” without turning around. It was later that I realized that the thing that caught my eye was the yellow cape of his Batman onesie.

I messaged him on Facebook later to apologize for not realizing that it was him saying hi in the dark. That message will forever be the most important message I ever sent, because from that moment on, I was hooked on his friendship. He ended up leaving school early that semester and we never got the chance to hang out in person, but we spent countless hours snapchatting and messaging about the weirdest things. Late November turned into December and finals week and with the stress of papers and exams, I also got countless pictures of Lucy with incredibly long captions. Sam was the kind of guy that sent you unsolicited pictures of his dog just to keep you sane during finals week, and if that doesn’t scream perfection then I don’t know what does.

We got together almost immediately when we got back to campus and saw each other almost every single day. I have a mile-long list of memories that I could write about for pages and pages, but most of them probably wouldn’t make sense to the outside world. Granted, not much about Sam made sense to even his closest of friends.

We watched movies (when I say “movies,” I mean we watched Fool’s Gold on repeat) and did homework together. He talked about his Cognitive Psychology class the most, knowing that’s the one I was most interested in, and always asked me the more linguistics-based questions on his study guides just to see if I really knew what I was talking about. He was one of the very few people that took a complete, genuine interest in the things I like to study and talk about, and wanted to learn about the IPA and what a “glottal stop” was.

We ate food. We ate SO much food. I can’t even count the number of times we went to Bamboo Bistro or grabbed a quick meal at Sharples before class, but he was always my go-to meal buddy. We were together in public so frequently that I started getting side-eye smirks from my friends every time they saw us and I got those flirtatiously-asked “Who’s that boy you’re always with??” sort of questions. And I’d always laugh and say, “That’s Sam Jenkins! You should meet him, he’s amazing!”

I remember the numerous times he tried to convince me that chicken was a vegetable. I remember yelling at him so many times for wearing shorts in sub-20 degree weather and him INSISTING that it was OK because he was wearing a hat. I remember him taking a vested interest in my Judaism and my family, and how, even though he had never met him in person, how much he loved and respected my father. He’s the only friend I’ve ever had that I’ve legitimately said to my family, “you’ve GOT to meet this friend I have!” I remember the incredibly selfish joy I was overwhelmed with when he told me he decided not to transfer to USC. I remember that we had softball practice canceled the weekend after we got back from our spring training trip on March 11th, and I thought about going home for that weekend to see my mom and sisters. For some reason, I didn’t. I had gone back to the fieldhouse to look for something that I’d left behind, and I texted my roommate that I was leaving the room. The text I got back was, “OK, Sam’s here and wants to grab dinner.” He’d just shown up out of the blue, and so I didn’t go home, and I went to Panera with him instead. That was the last meal we had together. He ordered a barbecue chicken flatbread sandwich, and he was wearing the onesie he’d gotten at the Game Developer’s Conference in California the week before. There is so, so much more that I remember.

He pulled me into his crazy ideas and put things on my bucket list that I’d never even considered before- camping, skiing, surfing, and sky-diving. He made you feel passionate about the things he was passionate about. His mind was beautiful, and he had a way of sucking you in to those crazy ideas he had. But when it came down to it, he really only had one goal. I’ve been going through old texts in the past few days, texts that I doubt that I’ll ever be able to erase, and in one of them he wrote “My professional future is so blurred, but at the very least, I want to be the best husband/dad/life-long-single-guy-who-makes-everyone’s-day-a-little-brighter all of the time. Basically whatever happens, I’m hoping I can be satisfied enough to make the best out of the situation in a way that can benefit those around me.” He was the most genuinely pure and goodhearted human I have ever met.

We had countless conversations about the families we wanted to have, the places we wanted to visit, the movies we wanted to watch, the foods we wanted to eat…I was so excited to share life with him. I was so excited to watch him achieve his dreams and change the world one video game at a time. As much as his loss hurts, it hurts more knowing that all the exceptional things he wanted to do will never get done- he won’t run his own game development studio; he won’t revolutionize the interactive educational gaming industry; he won’t move to Australia; he won’t go to the ISA World Surfing Games; he won’t get his Ducati bike back; he won’t get a new onesie at the 2018 Game Developer’s Conference; he won’t marry the love of his life and he won’t raise little blond-haired-blue-eyed Sammy’s to be the kind of person that shaves his head in solidarity with one of his close friend’s mothers who was diagnosed with cancer. It’s not just the loss of what was, it’s the loss of the could have been’s, the would have been’s, and the should have been’s. there is solace in knowing that his sisters, his family, and his friends will carry on the incredible legacy that he leaves behind and the work he started will continue long into the future.

In the past few days I watched our “Snap Streak” expire, the little emoji by his name disappear and his contact move farther and farther down on my most frequent contact on Facebook messenger – just small, seemingly insignificant indications of the changes happening in my life now that he’s gone. I’ll miss his “WOW” reacts on my Facebook posts of bad puns, and yelling at him for not dressing warmer, and watching him try (and fail) to use his computer while upside down in a bridge. I remember the last text conversation we had on Friday morning about light-up sneakers. The last text I got was “Woah!” at 9:23 AM before I drove back to campus. When I got back at around 12:00, I saw ambulances outside Sharples and didn’t know why. I got the news later that night, and didn’t put two and two together until much later in the evening.

There is no way to describe the feelings of loss, pain, disgust, anger, sadness, and confusion that course through your veins when someone tells you that one of your very best friends passed away. There is no way to convey the shock and the feel of burning hot tears and boiling blood. There is also no way to describe the sense of gratitude and awe that you feel when your community gathers around you, when your friends and family rally for you and take control of everything when you physically cannot, when your father immediately gets in the car and drives two hours to Swarthmore at midnight just to hold you, just to take over for the devoted and selfless friends who have been holding your shaking body all night long. There is no way to describe the comfort that resides in the safety of the Swarthmore community, in Collections, in Fashion Fridays, or in the power of the people who reach out to you to bring you to the hospital during his last hours. For those feelings, I will be eternally grateful.

There’s a reason for everything. There’s a reason I didn’t go home that weekend after spring break and decided to hang back so that I could grab Panera with Sam. I don’t know what the reason for losing him was, and I don’t think I ever will. Some people just do so much living so early on that they just aren’t meant to keep going, and that’s the worst. I am so blessed to have had him in my life, and to have been with him during some of his final moments. I’ll probably be able to add to this for years and years to come, and it will never truly be finished. The world didn’t deserve someone as kind, genuine, pure, selfless, and passionate as him.

 

Samuel Miles Jenkins,

I never truly got to tell you how much I loved you. I could have, I should have, if I had had just one more day, I would have. Never has a friend been able to make me laugh the way you did, to make me see the world as brightly and beautifully as you did. So I’ll see the world for all the beauty it has to offer, and one day I’ll go surfing and skiing for the first time and I’ll tell you all about it, and I’ll watch Lord of the Rings and Fool’s Gold over and over again, and I’ll wear flowered pants and Hawaiian shirts, and I may even learn how to play World of Warcraft for you. And I’ll tell you all about it one day. I’m so grateful for the time we had. I’m grateful for Essie’s runs and trying to break open pistachio shells, and talking about cognitive science and how to make video games. I’m glad I know that you hated cold sandwiches and single-use plastics, but you loved turtles and adult-sized onesies. I’ll miss every last laugh and smile you ever gave me, and Lord knows how many of those there were.

I’d give all my yesterdays for just one more tomorrow. I love you always, Sam Jenkins. Until we meet again.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks to all of you who have written so eloquently about Sam Jenkins and shared his life with us. I haven’t read them all yet, but I’ve bookmarked the page so I can go back and finish. I hope that writing these tributes was healing for each of you and also for all who read them, especially Sam’s family.

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