The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

Northeastern community and loved ones remember William Jennings

William Jennings holds a saxophone and poses for a photo. Jennings, who died Nov. 4, was remembered by friends as someone excited about the world who constantly put others before himself. Photo courtesy GoFundMe.
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William Jennings holds a saxophone and poses for a photo. Jennings, who died Nov. 4, was remembered by friends as someone excited about the world who constantly put others before himself. Photo courtesy GoFundMe.

William Jennings, who graduated from Northeastern in May with a degree from the College of Engineering, died Nov. 4. He was 22. 

Jennings was killed in a plane crash in Queensland, Australia, along with two others on board who have not been publicly identified, while surveilling and imaging wildfires to aid firefighting efforts. Jennings had been hired temporarily as a contractor and was slated to return to the United States in about a month, according to loved ones who spoke with The News.

Those who knew Jennings remember him as a kind, positive and giving person who constantly put others before himself. 

When Jennings moved into his apartment in Mission Hill, he had spent almost eight hours moving out of another building the same day. Despite this, he arrived at his new home and greeted his future roommates with a smile, telling them how excited he was for their next chapter. 

“He came back and he was like ‘Oh my goodness, I am so excited to live here with you guys. It’s going to be great,’ and it really was — we always had a really happy house,” said roommate and friend Jennifer Murphy, a 2023 Northeastern graduate. 

“He always had a smile on his face,” Murphy said. “Will was probably the best person I’ve ever met, and he was the kindest person I’ve ever met.”

After graduating summa cum laude in May, Jennings worked in the field of aerial surveillance in both Arizona and Australia. This fall, Jennings was hired by AGAIR, a Victoria-based aerial firefighting company, according to Australian media source 7NEWS Australia. 

A contact from Jennings’ co-op contacted him about working in Australia to survey wildfires for about a month, Murphy said. “He decided to do that because he was such a generous guy and he wanted to help people in any way that he could, and so he went to Australia,” she said

Jennings’ selflessness and desire to help others is a common recollection among loved ones.

“I met him four years ago — freshman year. He was the most positive person I’ve ever met in my entire life,” said Brendan Fernandes, a 2023 Northeastern graduate. “No matter what was happening, he was always trying to be a positive influence on everyone. He was being positive for himself, but he was also trying to make everyone else as happy as possible.”

According to those who knew him well, Jennings hoped to use his degree to help his parents in any way he could.

“He always talked about how he wanted to become a mechanical engineer to help people and help his parents. He always wanted to help them first and himself second,” Murphy said. “He has always been like that. He has always helped others before helping himself.”

A GoFundMe campaign set up by family friend Dennis Wickes is raising funds for Jennings’ family. 

“We’re hoping to raise enough funds to cover William’s funeral costs and the costs to bring his remains home from Australia,” Wickes wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Every little bit counts and will have an immense impact on supporting William’s grieving family.”

The GoFundMe had raised more than $90,000 as of Nov. 28.

An update from the GoFundMe shared that, “As the funds continued to roll in, Joe and Denise [Jennings] felt some of their worries lifting off their shoulders, as they knew now that they could give William the proper burial and service he deserved, surrounded by those who loved him.”

The update added that Jennings’ parents plan to use some of the surplus funds to “continue the legacy that their son had started” by creating “a special Memorial Scholarship in William’s name at a later date, to honor his memory and the values he stood for.”

Recent Northeastern graduate William Jennings poses for a photo in his cap and gown. Jennings was killed in a Nov. 4 plane crash in Australia while surveilling fires. Photo courtesy GoFundMe.

When he arrived on Northeastern’s Boston campus from his hometown in Long Island, New York, Jennings dove right into the Northeastern community, friends said. Those who spoke with The News recalled his enthusiasm for intramural and club sports including soccer, volleyball and spikeball. An aspiring mechanical engineer, Jennings was a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honors society, as well as the Northeastern chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, or ASME. 

“I will always remember Will as someone excited about the world and the people he came across,” said Simran Bajaj, a friend of Jennings. “Someone who wanted to push himself and wasn’t scared to pursue his dreams. And most of all, someone who did it all with a big smile without fail.”

James Minardi, Northeastern ASME’s president and a fourth-year mechanical engineering and physics combined major, wrote in a statement to The News that Jennings was an active member of their community.  

“[Jennings had] a commitment to becoming a better mechanical engineer. He even put in the extra time and effort to become a Certified SolidWorks Associate through our supplemental course in the Spring 2021 semester,” Minardi wrote.

Loved ones emphasized Jennings’ ambition and his love for others.

“Will was absolutely extraordinary, in every sense. He genuinely lit up every room he walked into,” Bajaj said. “I’ve seen him make people smile and laugh, even after only meeting them once. His energy was so vibrant and contagious. I think he really found joy in the smallest things and chased his dreams.” 

Fernandes recalled a time years ago when he mentioned to Jennings he was planning on studying abroad, and Jennings jumped at the opportunity to join him. 

“I had just met Will, and about two weeks later I told him about it and he was like ‘Oh that sounds awesome … How about we both study abroad in Italy and we room together?’” Fernandes said. “That was kind of who he was. If there was an opportunity at Northeastern, or from the world, he wanted to take it.”

Jennings was also a hiker, nature lover and gifted photographer who shared his photos on an Instagram page

“One of the first times I hung out with him, a few of us went on a hike and he brought his camera and told me about his interest in photography,” Bajaj said. “We would stop for the small flowers in the lake or the beautiful green view from afar so he could take pictures. Every time I saw him again I would ask what cool new things he saw and he would show me his collection and tell a whole story about the place and what he experienced with so much excitement.”

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