A LEGACY OF KINDNESS

Selected giving story

A LEGACY OF KINDNESS

Honoring the life of Kevin Chang ‘19

Kevin Chang ‘19 viewed the world through a lens of kindness. Even at a young age, he understood that kindness is a universal language and one of the most poignant ways we connect with others. And, he appreciated that generous deeds, whether big or small, can make a lasting impact.

Kevin practiced kindness every day in many different ways. He was a devoted son and a good friend. He lovingly cared for his two dogs, Susie and Mimi. Whether with his Detroit Country Day School family or in his community, he always took time to help others or share a kind word of encouragement and support for anyone in need.

Kevin began attending DCDS in the 4th grade. He excelled in academics, arts and athletics, notably earning a National Merit Finalist award, and graduating summa cum laude.

With a keen interest in nature, animals and the environment, he volunteered at the Stage Nature Center located near his home in Troy, Michigan. Kevin’s community service motivated him to write a children’s book in 2018 with his cousin and artist, Anthony Lee, called "Save The Bees!" He wanted to help kids better understand the important role these insects play in every aspect of the ecosystem. Kevin sold more than 100 copies and donated over $800 in profits to the Stage Nature Center.

As co-captain of the varsity swim team, Kevin led by example. While he relished the camaraderie and competition, Kevin’s priority was building relationships with all his fellow swimmers. Former teammate Aidan Khagany ‘22 remembers how Kevin showed up to the pool every day with a positive attitude and always put forth his best effort. “His dedication and hard work motivated our entire team,” he says. “No matter what, Kevin put us first because he genuinely wanted each of us to be successful. He was like an older brother to me and everyone else on the team, and treated us like family. We all looked up to Kevin.”

Renee Zacks, who served as Kevin's advisor throughout Upper School, recalls his sympathy towards others. “Kevin was obviously super intelligent, but more importantly, particularly in the role I had with him, he was just an extremely compassionate and caring person,” Zacks describes. “[He was] always asking other people how they were doing.”

Following his graduation from DCDS in 2019, Kevin attended Princeton University where he majored in chemical and biological engineering with a minor in environmental studies. He cared about the well-being of the planet and the environment, and had dreams of helping to solve problems associated with climate change.

During the spring of 2021, Kevin studied remotely in Troy due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but he was struggling emotionally. While mental health challenges for young people existed long before COVID-19, prolonged periods of remote learning, social isolation and pandemic uncertainty exacerbated feelings of anxiety and depression along with suicidal thoughts in children and teens. 

Kevin died by suicide on April 28, 2021 at the age of 19. His death shocked and devastated family, friends and the entire DCDS community.

For his parents David and May Chang, the pain of losing their only child was unfathomable. Not a day goes by that they aren’t reminded of their precious son. “Kevin was such a good boy, and brought us tremendous joy and pride,” they say. “We miss him so dearly. He is always in our minds and in our hearts.”

At Kevin’s funeral, several family and friends fondly remembered him as intelligent, thoughtful, creative and empathetic.

By sharing Kevin’s story, the Changs hope to raise awareness and encourage open discussions about mental health challenges young people face. “Mental health is essential to overall health,” David explains. “Normalizing conversations is a vital step in reducing the stigma, lack of sufficient knowledge and fear of talking about this important topic.”

 

Kevin Chang Memorial Endowment

Former Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, is a dear friend of the Chang family. An advocate for behavioral health, he believes investing in support and educational resources is necessary for addressing the nation’s youth mental health crisis.

Following Kevin’s death, Bevin wanted to honor in a meaningful way the sweet young man he had come to know over the years. He made a generous gift to establish a permanent endowment fund in support of Student Life Programs, specifically those related to health and wellness, at DCDS.

“This endowment is a lasting tribute to Kevin who was a bright, thoughtful, quiet, gentle soul – a product of how he was raised and a reflection of his parents’ love and goodness,” Bevin says.

“We are extremely grateful to Mr. Bevin for his generous gift. The Kevin Chang Memorial Endowment is a wonderful example of remembrance for an outstanding alumnus,” says Richard Dempsey, Head of School. “The fund will help to foster and promote a wide range of health and wellness initiatives for current and future students, in furtherance of our guiding motto, Mens Sana In Corpore Sano - A Sound Mind in a Sound Body.”

The priority of health and wellness to the DCDS community is also evident in the continued contributions by donors to the endowment, which includes the Upper School Parents’ Association. In addition to keeping Kevin’s virtue at the forefront, the endowment has helped the school to provide a full-time counselor for grades PK -12 at each DCDS campus. The expanded support has also allowed the counseling team to reinforce strategies behind the school’s Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) initiative, which includes an essential social-emotional component and has become a primary pillar of the educational journey at DCDS. The strategies have included establishing wellness spaces, social-emotional educational programs, and resource libraries on all campuses.

 

The Power of Kindness

In conjunction with the endowment, Bevin’s gift also created the Kevin Chang Kindness Award to recognize those who, like Kevin, practice kindness toward others.

While it may seem small, the ripple effects of small things are extraordinary,” says Bevin. “People always remember the kindness of others. Kevin knew this to be true and his remarkable example is worth celebrating.”

First presented in 2022 as the only student-nominated Book Award during the school’s annual Honors Convocation ceremony, the Kevin Chang Kindness Award recognizes a junior and/or senior student who has perpetually demonstrated sincere kindness, generosity, empathy, and care for members of the DCDS community. Recipients receive a copy of Kevin’s book, “Save the Bees!”, and are named on a plaque placed near his tribute box.  

“Whether as random acts or intentional gestures, it is my hope this award inspires others to spread kindness,” says Bevin. “Now, more than ever, the world needs more kindness.”

 

A Lasting Legacy

We often think of a person’s legacy in terms of material possessions or significant accomplishments. The Changs encourage us to look at the whole person rather than focusing solely on the trappings of success. They say the journey by which a person reaches their goals is often overlooked. “Earning a high grade point average, attending an elite university or landing a high salary at a hot company shouldn’t define who you are,” they say. “The principles and values that guide a person’s behavior and how they live matter much, much more.”

David and May sincerely appreciate the love and support they have received from the DCDS community along with so many family, close friends and even strangers. They take comfort in knowing that their son continues to positively impact the lives of others, albeit in a different way. “Kevin’s character and the core values he embodied are his true legacy. His caring spirit will live on.”

To make a gift to the Kevin Chang Memorial Endowment, visit www.dcds.edu/give. For more information, please contact Tina (Mangalick) Blank '06, Director of Philanthropy, at TBlank@dcds.edu.

If you are dealing with feelings of depression or suicide, please reach out for help. Call, text, or chat 988 to be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (now known as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline). The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.

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