Indiana Daily Student

‘The man of a thousand ideas’: Remembering IU Ph.D. student Oscar Lemus

<p>The late Oscar Lemus smiles for a photo. Oscar died after a car accident Sept. 4, 2021, in Massachusetts. </p>

The late Oscar Lemus smiles for a photo. Oscar died after a car accident Sept. 4, 2021, in Massachusetts.

Walking through New York City during her layover, Oscar Lemus and Katreen Boustani, Lemus’s partner, talked about their future, ate popsicles and bought books from a street vendor. Boustani remembers this as an especially special day in August.

When it was time for Boustani to head home, she became sad and tears started streaming down her face. 

“Don’t worry, you’ll see me again,” Lemus told her before she went to board the plane. 

This was the last time Boustani saw Lemus in person. 

“It was a really good, full goodbye,” Boustani said. “I have a really good peaceful memory of him.” 

IU Ph.D. student Oscar Lemus was a warm person full of enthusiasm and had a contagious smile, his friends said. He had a way of making everyone feel like they were enough and that they were important. 

Lemus died Sept. 4 at the age of 32 from a car crash in Massachusetts. Lemus was from Flushing, New York. 

Boustani said she will miss his personality and his voice. 

“He’s so warm,” she said. “By warm I mean he is a very comfortable person to be around.” 

Lemus had an aspiration to become a professor. He had a passion for mentoring and teaching, Boustani said. 

“He was always noting little lessons he had learned that he would want to pass on to his students,” Boustani said.

Javon Goard, a friend of Lemus’s, said he would constantly offer feedback and always had a new idea for his work. 

“Oscar was the man of a thousand ideas,” Goard said. 

He used to write down his theories and ideas on sticky notes, showing his ideas through pictures. Goard said the way his mind worked was amazing. 

Goard first met Lemus in the fall of 2015 before joining their respective Ph.D. programs at IU during a tour of Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering. 

Goard said he and Lemus hit it off from the moment they met and their friendship continued to grow over the years. Goard said over time they became like brothers. 

Goard is still learning how to function with Lemus as his muse, not in person, but on a spiritual plane. 

“Oscar was an exemplary example of what it means to be a fantastic scholar as well as an outstanding human being,” Goard said. 

Lemus was currently planning to go to Guatemala to do field work for his Ph.D. dissertation. Professor Christena Nippert-Eng, Lemus’s Ph.D. advisor, said he was close to finishing his Ph.D.

Nippert-Eng met Lemus about six years ago when he visited Luddy for a department visit as a prospective student. She said she and Lemus had a lot of common interests.

Lemus was working towards a Ph.D. in Computing, Culture and Society and a minor in Human Computer Interaction/Design. 

Lemus was recently awarded a Microsoft Dissertation Research Grant, a highly competitive award to support research, Nippert-Eng said. 

Lemus was always wanting to know more about other people, she said. 

“Everybody thinks that Oscar was their best friend — we all think that we had a really special relationship with him and we are all right,” she said. “We are absolutely correct about that.” 

Every person he met was another person for him to become friends with, she said. 

“He is going to be so badly missed,” Nippert-Eng said. “I am going to miss him so much.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated Lemus's place of death and misspelled Goard's name.

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