Victim of hit-and-run a standout at UI
URBANA — In the biggest department in the most competitive college at the University of Illinois, Anthony Pauls stood out.
Not just in academics, though he was a solid student in an engineering program that ranks among the world's elite.
It was his hard work, his winning personality, his breadth of interests, say his teachers.
Mr. Pauls, 22, who died early Saturday after a hit-and-run accident, was an engineer, history buff, athlete and natural leader who just had a way with people, according to those who taught him.
"It's just a tragic loss that a young man with so much potential is gone," Professor Emeritus Timothy Trick said Monday, a sentiment widely expressed on campus and in Mr. Pauls' hometown near Crystal Lake.
Mr. Pauls was pronounced dead just before 8 a.m. Saturday. Urbana police said he was hit by a car just before midnight Friday as he was walking across the 200 block of West University Avenue, not far from Carle Hospital.
Albert Fleming, 20, who listed an address in the 1500 block of Williamsburg Drive in Champaign, was arrested in connection with the accident. He was arraigned Monday and charged with aggravated driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident involving death, and other traffic charges. He pleaded innocent but remained in the Champaign County Jail on $500,000 bond, with a preliminary court hearing scheduled for Oct. 30.
The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, where Mr. Pauls was in his fourth year of study, observed a moment of silence in all classes Monday in his memory.
His faculty mentor, Professor Joseph Lyding, said the department will do something to "commemorate him properly."
"There's a lot of good to remember about him," he said. "It's a very sad time. But he's a special guy."
Mr. Pauls planned to augment his degree in electrical and computer engineering with a minor in history — an unusual track for engineering majors, faculty said. Most engineering students are interested in an advanced degree in engineering, business or medicine, Trick said.
Mr. Pauls had an interest in history, particularly the late John Bardeen, a former UI professor and two-time Nobel Laureate. Pauls wanted to learn more about Bardeen's invention of the transistor and its impact on society, said Trick, an emeritus professor who was advising Mr. Pauls on his independent study project this fall.
They reviewed books he could read, including Lillian Hoddeson's "True Genius," a biography of Bardeen, and "Crystal Fire," the story of the transistor's invention.
He had also planned to interview engineering Professor Nick Holonyak, Bardeen's first graduate student, who is still active with the department and a world-renown scientist in his own right. He never got the chance.
"He was a fine young man," said Trick, who had just met Mr. Pauls in early September. "I just wish I had gotten to know him and his family a little more."
Mr. Pauls was interested in the scientists behind great advances in technology, "the human side of things," Lyding said.
"It's not just a matter of solving a bunch of equations. It's how people interact, the coincidences of events that make things happen.
"He was such a well-rounded, social type of person. This really appealed to him. He must have had a very wide circle of friends. He was just a lot of fun to be around."
Mr. Pauls, who was from Lake in the Hills, graduated in 2009 from Crystal Lake South High School. There, he excelled academically, was a member of the National Honor Society, and played four years on the football and basketball teams.
"He was one of our greatest students we've had here in a long time," said athletic director Jason Bott. "He was an excellent leader. He was just such a positive kid. Words can't express the loss that everyone here is feeling."
Mr. Pauls was an outfielder in baseball and a defensive linebacker in football. Baseball coach Brian Bogda described him as a "big contributor" in both sports, the result of hard work.
"He was not necessarily the biggest kid in the world," Bogda said, "but he made himself the best that he could be.
"He was a phenomenal kid ... the type of kid that you wanted to be around, the type of kid you wanted to see each day," Bogda said. "He was just always positive. His teammates fed off of his energy," whether he was motivating them in a tough situation or just "being silly and making a joke."
"He was a leader, a captain on our teams. The kids looked up to him."
On one snowy spring day, when Crystal Lake South hosted a game with Chicago's Walter Payton Prep, Mr. Pauls decided the weather was more appropriate for football than baseball. He appeared for warmups wearing an old Walter Payton jersey.
Bogda wasn't sure how their opponents would take it, especially since they'd driven an hour and half to play Crystal Lake. But "they were all even laughing," he said. "It was funny, good-spirited. That's the type of guy he was."
Mr. Pauls headed to the UI with several other friends accepted to the College of Engineering. His younger sister Maria also attends the UI.
Lyding found a telling statement Mr. Pauls wrote when asked what he's learned from his experience at the university: "Nothing is given to you. If you want to achieve something, you have to work hard at it."
"It doesn't seem like life is fair when somebody with so much potential loses his life this way," Bogda said. "You try to make sense of it. You can't."
Visitation for Mr. Pauls will be held from 2 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Willow Funeral Home, 1415 Algonquin Road, Algonquin. A prayer service is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday at the funeral home, followed by a 10 a.m. funeral mass at St. Mary Catholic Church in Huntley. Entombment will be in All Saints Mausoleum in Des Plaines.