Harvard-Radcliffe Class of '89

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Kyle Prioleau

I can easily picture the first time I met Kyle. It was late fall of freshman year and I was eating alone in the Union trying to study and rescue a passing grade in Chem 10. Kyle, whom I had never met, placed his tray down directly across from me. I was puzzled and annoyed since the dining hall was practically empty and it was obvious I was trying to study. Several minutes passed without any exchange, and then suddenly Kyle commented, “It’s too late.” I looked up and Kyle blankly said, “You’re obviously not interested in that class because you haven’t studied. You’re better off taking something that actually excites you.” I was taken aback, but before I could think of anything to say, he got up and left. I was flustered, largely because the comment was true.

Despite this awkward first meeting, Kyle and I later became friends and roommates in college and medical school and shared countless experiences though those 9 years of co-habitation. I was lucky enough to witness firsthand the way Kyle lived his life to the fullest and was always seeking new experiences. Just as he had done in college, he took advantage of his time after graduation in Japan, San Francisco and Chicago, to touch many lives along the way. He was a dedicated and caring son, brother, and cousin. He suffered many personal tragedies, including the loss of his mother and brother as a child, but never felt self-pity or entitled because of these losses. Rather, they pushed him to live his life to the fullest.

For many years, Kyle was my dearest friend who supported me through countless ups and downs. But it is my first meeting with Kyle that brings to mind the things I remember and miss the most. Kyle had exceptional powers of observation that allowed him to view and interpret the world in novel and unique ways. He was fearless and did not hesitate making his opinions and thoughts known. He possessed a keen sense of humor that was both dry and playful. Finally, he was caring and dedicated to the people in his life. I am still saddened by his death and the loss of his friendship, but just about every day I see or hear something that reminds me of Kyle and fondly remember the insightful and quirky ways he viewed the world and the passion he had in playing a part in it.

- William Matsui

I met Kyle on my first day at Harvard, in the gables of Matthews North. He wandered into our dorm room unannounced, spotted me on the fire escape surveying the yard, and declared sufficiently loudly (so that I could hear), that I was breaking the rules. He then flashed an electric smile. So began our friendship, and the breaking of many rules together.

For those of you who knew Kyle, here are some of the broad brush strokes of his post- Harvard life. After graduation, Kyle set off for Kyushu, Japan, where he taught English with the Japan English Teach program. He returned with expanded horizons, and many hilarious lost-in-translation stories. As he had long hoped and planned for, he went on to medical school at UCSF, where he roomed with his brother from another planet, Harvard roommate Bill Matsui ('89). He spent six halcyon years in the Bay area, forging new friendships, strengthening the old, seeking out new experiences and adventure, and having a good old time. He took up snowboarding, sculpting, and the guitar. He took a break from med school to earn his Masters in Public Health at UC Berkeley, where he also started welding large metal sculpture. His living room thereafter was filled with his wacky creations from those days. After med school, Kyle set off for Chicago, sculptures in tow, where he began his residency in Emergency Medicine at Cook County Hospital. As a person who lived in the moment, I think he appreciated the immediacy and intensity of ER, and its clarity of purpose. He was eager to get out into the world again, after so many years of school, and he often talked about using his skills to work abroad in areas of conflict and crisis, to make a difference in people's lives.

On the surface it’s hard to make sense of what eventually happened, in light of Kyle’s zest for life. You would never have known that he had lost his mother and brother as a young boy, as his joyous and accomplished life belied and defied that past. Unbeknownst to many of his friends, Kyle suffered from depression, which worsened over time and eventually became unbearable. He ended his life on April 26, 2002 in Chicago. True to his character and generosity of spirit, he thought of the impact his actions would have on those who loved him. He penned a letter directing his family and friends not to blame themselves in any way, and thanked them for making his life worth living for as long as he did. Many gathered to mourn and celebrate him in Chicago on May 1, 2002, including Alice Crary ('89), Chris Marx ('89), Bill Matsui ('89), and I. Kyle was survived by his beloved parents Bill and Laura Prioleau, his brothers Algernon and Osric, Aunt Nay, cousin Karen, and his partner Leonel Arroyo.

As we gather to remember, I picture Kyle and his wide easy grin, strong armed hugs, booming voice, adventurous spirit, and wide open heart. The precious gift of his friendship remains.


I met Kyle at the early admit weekend skating party. He was all of things I wasn’t and wanted to be – funny, charming, good looking, confident. But most of all, he was cool. This was part of what drew me to him initially, and it’s very much how I remember him.

We met again freshman year, and during college our friendship took root in a shared love of music and many common friends, particularly in the Adams/Mather/Dunster axis around which much of my social life revolved. The more I got to know him, the better I understood that below this shiny surface was an incredibly kind, funny, creative, curious, insightful and patient person. We had lots of fun in Cambridge, and when he came through New York in the early years after Harvard. But it was during two magical years out in California that we truly grew close.

He was already in medical school at UCSF when I got to Stanford. He was the first person I went to see when I got out there, and I quickly fell into his orbit – medical students were much more fun than business school ones! I ended up spending countless nights on the couch at the disaster zone apartment in the Sunset that he shared with Bill Matsui (89). Memories of those days are foggy, for reasons that go well past the local climate, but a few stand out: Kyle talking our way into a jet skiing demonstration by posing as freelance reporters (we ended up racing around under the Golden Gate and by Alcatraz); staying up all night watching nature documentaries and the surgery channel while he explained the science; indulging our shared obsession with Beverly Hills 90210; pawing the stacks of records at Amoeba in Berkeley; teaching each other how to snowboard, play guitar, cook . . .

There were so many attractive aspects to Kyle. He was free spirited, up for adventure and his answer to “Do you want to _____?” was always, “Yeah!” He was compassionate, and you could count on him to be there, especially when you really needed him. And he never judged – sure, he’d call you out when you deserved it, but it was from a place of love, never bitterness. With his booming laugh, electric smile and slap-on-the-back hugs, he made you feel special just to be with him. After I moved back to New York, we still saw each other, but not as much as before. He was doing his residency in Chicago, I was newly married and starting a family. I knew he struggled with depression, and when the call came, I had to admit that I knew it was possible.

One final memory from a trip we took to Colorado in the spring of 1994. We were hiking in the mountains, enjoying the Rocky Mountain high, when we came across a particularly picturesque turn in the creek we had been following. “I’m going to take a swim,” he said. It didn’t matter that others might come by, or that the water was about 40 degrees. He stripped down, jumped in, and the next thing I knew, he was perched up on a rock in the middle of the stream, sun shining down on him, smoking a cigarette that he had somehow managed to keep dry. Kyle always just did what he did – and that was what made him so cool. I miss you, buddy.

- Chris Marx

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