Campus mourns death of student Jalen Paukan

 Jalen Paukan at Stanford

Jalen Paukan was remembered for his infectious smile, intellectual curiosity and adventurous spirit .

The Stanford community is grieving the death of Jalen Jimmy Paukan, a senior from remote St. Mary's, Alaska, who was an active member of the Stanford Native American community.

Campus police responded to concerns about Paukan's welfare Monday evening and found the student in his Mirrielees apartment bedroom.  The cause of his death remains under investigation by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.

Stunned students gathered at the Native American Cultural Center (NACC) Tuesday evening to remember their close friend.

"Jalen was always there to give his friends a hearty warm laugh. He often thought of others and their well being and always extended a helping hand with community events and events with his close friends," said student Chance Carpenter. "He would cheer you up, no matter what mood you were in. His laughter, his charisma and his friendly embrace will be remembered and greatly missed."

Paukan was a psychology major from a small, rural Yup'ik Eskimo village in far-western Alaska, 450 miles by air from Anchorage. Proud of his culture and origins, Paukan generously shared his Native Alaskan identity with his Stanford classmates and frequently posted stunning pictures of his home on social media.

"Jalen whimsically reminded all of us that most freshman dorms had exponentially more residents than his hometown," said Karen Biestman, associate dean and director of NACC.  "This never deterred him, but rather was the inspiration for his being. From the beginning, he shared his connection to culture, drumming, singing and dance with the Stanford community. I remember being deeply moved when, after apologizing to the group for not having recorded music, he performed a powerful Eskimo song and dance - a cappella - stamping his feet on the floor to replicate a drum, and never missed a beat, teaching and interpreting along the way."

Paukan was on the staff of the Stanford Native Immersion Program and NACC, where he organized numerous events including a Stanford version of the Eskimo Olympics, with competitive activities and "knuckle hop" races.  

Last spring, Paukan studied at Stanford in Florence.

"His wide, bright, infectious smile, his intellectual curiosity, adventurous spirit and so much more will be deeply missed," Biestman said.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman sent a note to all undergraduates Tuesday afternoon, expressing sympathy for the loss of a beloved classmate, friend and family member.

Boardman reminded everyone of support and resources available for students, staff and faculty:

  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): (650) 723-3785. CAPS offers 24/7 crisis counseling, and appointments can be made for the same day.
  • Residential Education: (650) 723-3000 (ask to be connected to the undergraduate residence dean on call). Within the residences, students can seek 24/7 assistance from resident fellows, residence deans, resident assistants and peer health educators.
  • Office for Religious Life: (650) 723-1762. The Office for Religious Life offers spiritual guidance for students and is located in the Round Room at Memorial Church.
  • The Bridge: (650) 723-3392. Students can receive 24/7 confidential counseling by trained students. The Bridge is located in Rogers House on Capistrano Way, across from the Faculty Club.

If you are aware of someone in distress, please contact CAPS; public safety at (650) 723-9633; or the Office of the Dean for Student Life at (650) 725-6810.

"The death of a young person is always hard to understand," Boardman wrote. "That's especially true in a community as close as Stanford's.  I hope everyone is watchful of those who need a helping hand and a sympathetic shoulder to lean on."