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Internet Activist Aaron Swartz's Teachers Remember 'Brilliant' Student

The Internet pioneer passed away this weekend in an apparent suicide. He was a student at North Shore Country Day School and grew up in Highland Park. His funeral is Tuesday morning.

Teachers and administrators at North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka remember former student Aaron Swartz as extremely intelligent and curious. Swartz, an Internet activist, co-creator of social news website Reddit and founder of Demand Progress, was found dead in an apparent suicide on Friday in his apartment in Brooklyn. He was 26.

Swartz grew up in Highland Park and attended North Shore Country Day School through 9th grade.

“He was a very creative boy and a very clever and bright child,” said Pam Whalley, head of lower school. “He was always engaged in school work. He loved … the creative opportunities he had here.”

Whalley also noted that Swartz demonstrated the ability to tackle complex problems at a young age. 

“He was always very clever in how he approached things,” Whalley said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, as a student Swartz especially excelled in math and science.

“When he was in 8th grade, he was brilliant,” said Larry Block, his 8th grade science teacher. “He wasn’t really a kid when others were a kid. He was beyond and, in terms of technology, he was beyond by far.”

Block noted that Swartz especially enjoyed practical applications and hands-on experiments, and was always asking questions.

“When you teach science, some students just kind of go with the flow, and others really kind of question how and why things work – he was definitely at a higher intellectual level, and very curious about the world around him,” Block said.

In a statement, the school said: "North Shore Country Day School is shocked and saddened at the loss of Aaron Swartz '04. ... Our thoughts and heartfelt sympathy go out to his family, his classmates and his friends."

Swartz’s family and friends set up a website — rememberaaronsw.com — for anyone to share their memories, thoughts and feelings. The website was, appropriately, made using some of the many software programs that Swartz helped to create. 

His funeral is Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Central Avenue Synagogue in Highland Park.

Jimmy Sternberber January 15, 2013 at 11:41 AM
With all due respect to Mr. Schwartz, may he rest in peace. I think that he should have used his intelligence to help better the world around him. He set an example to others that killing yourself may be an option to a problem. He was freaking 26. This is another example of people being too smart for their own good.
Billy Bob January 15, 2013 at 01:31 PM
Excuse me, but Aaron Swartz used his intelligence to try to make the world a much better place. It was the powers that be that decided he was too smart for their selfish goals and needed to be prosecuted and persecuted. Aaron Swartz is a modern American hero. May he rest in peace.

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