The Harvey Mudd community mourns the loss of Harvey Mudd College engineering student Tristan Witte ’18, 20, a talented athlete, musician and scholar, who passed away in a car accident July 15 along with his friend JJ Adkisson, 20, a graphic design student at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.
The two young men had been fast friends since meeting in third grade Sunday school at Marin Covenant Church in San Rafael.
“They went to different schools and lived in different cities but connected at a higher level with their passion for music and cool things like Pokemon and now Pokemon Go,” said Marcus Witte, Tristan’s father, in a Marin Independent Journal article.
The two friends were driving to Claremont on Interstate 210 in Southern California to pick up classmates at Harvey Mudd for a weekend camping trip at Joshua Tree National Park when the accident occurred.
An active member of the Harvey Mudd community and a fan of the beach, surfing and music, Witte planned to lead first-year students on an Orientation Adventure Trip to Venice beach with classmate Connor Colombe ’18 later this summer. They planned a day and a half of fun on the beach. “We will be lounging and playing games/sports on the beach, chilling in the water, eating local food and spending the night in a famous hostel,” reads the event description.
It’s a trip that matched his personality—described as “radiant coolness and laid-back” by one high school friend—as well as his desire to bond with classmates.
Students and faculty members recall Witte as easy going and even-keeled in a way that helped his classmates immensely. An engineering faculty member recalls, “When they were super stressed (which was nearly always), he’d crack a joke or play some reggae that would relax everyone and make them all more effective. He also showed great respect for every person on his team.”
Fellow engineering student and friend Lillian Liang ’18 pointed out that “he always looked people in the eye and really listened when they talked.”
Witte further served the Harvey Mudd community by being a peer consultant at the Writing Center and was pursuing an interest in languages by taking classes in Chinese.
The son of Marcus and Irmgard Witte of San Rafael, California, Witte is survived by his parents, and a younger sister, Peyton. Family members joined with friends at Witte’s former job, Silberman’s Ice Cream Shop, to create a special flavor in his honor. The “Mudd Slide,” contains all of Witte’s favorites: green-dyed vanilla ice cream with fudge butterscotch, chocolate-coated toffee pieces and molasses chips. It was an instant hit, and fellow Mudders brought some back to campus to share.