Thursday, April 5, 2007 at 10:52AM
Harvard Students Die in Car Accident
Published on July 11, 1997
The lives of two promising Harvard undergraduates, Deshaun R. Hill '99 and Harvard C. Nabrit Stephens '99, ended suddenly last Thursday during a traffic accident in Monterey Country, Calif. The Adams House rising-juniors were 20 and 19 respectively.
Hill was driving a 1997 Ford Mustang at around 5:30 p.m. when he lost control of the vehicle and crossed into the opposing lane, according to a California Highway Patrol report. Moments later, a 1991 Plymouth Voyager broadsided the Ford, causing it to overturn and then right itself.
Three other cars were involved in the resulting accident; Hill and Stephens, in the front passenger seat of the Ford, suffered the only fatal injuries. Brenton Guy, a sophomore computer science and engineering student at the University of California at Davis who was riding in the rear right passenger seat of the vehicle, sustained major injuries.
None of the three young men were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, according to the report.
According to the victims' parents, the two friends were on their way to Los Angeles for the Fourth of July weekend. Stephens, working for Microsoft this summer, took a flight from Seattle to California to meet up with Hill, who was employed by Intel.
Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III said the young men made "substantial contributions to the College and will be greatly missed."
Hill and Stephens had developed a tight network of friends in their two years at the College, according to Joseph R. Winters '99. Winters was in Nashville on Wednesday and flew to Milwaukee yesterday for the victims' funerals.
Winters met Hill on Pre-Frosh weekend and Stephens during Freshman Week. Hill, Stephens, Winters and a core group of others have been close friends ever since.
Winters noted that Hill and Stephens were friends during their first years, but being in the same blocking group this past year really solidified their relationship.
"[Deshaun] and Harvard became really good friends. They were in many of the same classes, and they liked to hang out together," Winters said. Winters was going to room with Hill next year in Claverly.
"Deshaun was really funny-we called him 'the dirty old man'--he always made us laugh," Winters said.
But, according to Winters, Hill had a very intense side. On the intramural basketball court or while doing homework, Hill was serious about the task at hand.
Mary Ann Hill said her son was both "happy-go-lucky" and a "perfectionist."
Although he was interested in "everything," Hill had his priorities straight, his mother said.
"Christ was first in his life," she said. "Education was second."
Hill, a resident of Milwaukee, Wisc., was an engineering sciences concentrator at Harvard and was valedictorian of his graduating class at Rufus King High School in Milwaukee.
"I can't say enough good about him," said Andrew Meuler, assistant principal of Rufus King High. "He was an outstanding student and student leader."
Peers also noted Hill's commitment to academics.
Dionne A. Fraser '99, president of the Black Students Association (BSA), said Deshaun was probably "the greatest student who ever went to Harvard."
"Deshaun was extremely brilliant," said Dahni-El Giles '99. "Both were extremely compassionate and honest gentlemen-the cornerstone of their blocking group."
Funeral services for Deshaun Hill will take place at 10 a.m. today at the Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Milwaukee.
Hill's friends have established a fund at Firstar Bank to help defray the cost of the funeral. Officials as the bank said donations may be made at any Firstar branch in Wisconsin.
Over 500 people were in attendance at the Wednesday funeral services for Harvard Stephens, including about ten students form the College.
According to Winters, Harvard's high school and college classmates had a chance to meet one another and reminisce about their mutual friend.
"We sat around talking, looking at baby pictures," Winters said. "We're trying to get through this together."
Two thousand miles away, almost 100 Microsoft employees crowded into a company memorial service held concurrently with the Tennessee funeral.
A computer science concentrator, Stephens was spending his summer at Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Wash.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Dr. Samella W. Junior-Spence, now-retired principal of the Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet School in Nashville, spoke of Stephens' "high moral character," nothing that he was a marvelous student, a caring sibling and a devoted friend.
When Dr. Junior-Spence asked seventh-grade Stephens why his name was Harvard, he replied, "that's where I'm going to school."
Dr. Barbara A. Nabrit-Stephens said she and her husband, Dr. Harvard W. Stephens, always gave their children the freedom to decide where they were going to college, "so long as they were going somewhere."
According to family and friends, Harvard actually considered many colleges' offers--including those from Georgia Tech and Duke--before choosing the university in Cambridge, Mass. that shares his name.
Harvard University proved to be the right decision for Harvard Stephens. Dr. Nabrit-Stephens said her son "was very satisfied" at the College, and he appreciated the challenges he boldly faced.
While at the College, Stephens volunteered in Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) Fresh Pond Enrichment program, where he taught Windows 95 and an Internet-related curriculum to disadvantaged students.
Harvard "worked very hard" and "loved his friends," said Brandon Watson, Stephens' colleague at Microsoft in Wash.
Friends agreed, saying Harvard was a warm and accommodating classmate.
"His door was always open-for partying and for studying," Fraser said.
She also said Stephens' first-year residence in Hollis Hall was the "epicenter of social activity."
Fraser said she and Epps discussed plans for a memorial for Harvard and Deshaun--perhaps a plaque outside Hollis.
While at Microsoft this summer, Stephens planned to solicit Bill Gates for computer donations for his PBHA students.
Harvard's parents hope to establish a scholarship fund at the University in their son's memory. Friends may offer contributions through the Sun Trust Bank in Nashville.
Stephens was also a member of the BSA, the Black Men's Forum (BMF) and the Spee Club.
Dr. Nabrit-Stephens said her other three children "idolized" their brother. Harvard's sister Nia C. Stephens '01 has matriculated at the College.
According to Dr. Nabrit-Stephens, her son wanted to earn his MBA and work for McKinsey after graduation.
"No one had a brighter future ahead of them that Harvard and Dehaun," Fraser said.