If you were in a room with Derian Dominguez, you’d have known it before even seeing him. The business management student, who was entering the final year of his undergraduate degree program, brought a certain liveliness to every space he entered, his friends recalled.
“Whether it be a night out on the town, camping in the woods or hanging out in a living room, Derian’s energy always was present,” said Takoda Denhof (CWR ’22). “His laugh was contagious, and he always knew how to make your day a little bit better.”
Now, members of the Case Western Reserve University community are mourning the loss of such an energetic, bright and caring personality, after the 23-year-old was reportedly murdered Aug. 3 while in New Orleans working a summer construction job.
Born and raised in New York—the Bronx until junior high then upstate for high school—Dominguez came to Case Western Reserve in 2018 with aspirations of becoming a successful businessman. Here, he was active in the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and worked in Allen Memorial Medical Library—and was always armed with a joke that helped him make new friends.
Dominguez was one of the first people Ryan Tien (CWR ’23) met at Case Western Reserve. Their friendship grew as they became fraternity brothers and eventually housemates.
“[Derian] always looked out for those he loved and never backed down from helping his friends—a trait I always admired,” said Tien.
Dominguez never tried to sugarcoat things, Tien remembered, and would tell his friends exactly what they needed to hear, especially when they were in the wrong. Though he was known for his candor, Tien said his friend was also always quick with a joke—and even quicker with comebacks.
Chris Dolwick, ZBT advisor and circulation manager and Dominguez’s supervisor at Allen Memorial Medical Library, said Dominguez’s smile, laugh and sense of humor were infectious—even, “or maybe especially, at inopportune moments.
“So were his self-confidence and charm; [he was] a true extrovert,” said Dolwick. “Witnessing the grief and love of so many students at his passing is physically painful, yet a tribute to the friend and brother he was to so many. He would’ve been the first to bring people together after a tragedy like this.”
Dominguez’s father noted that his son’s unifying nature was a strength.
“He got along with everyone, no matter how different they were,” Rafael Dominguez wrote in a eulogy he shared with The Daily.
Dominguez was a passionate social justice advocate, an adventurer by nature, a music and sports enthusiast, and a “talented air fryer chef,” the eulogy notes. He also was deeply proud of his Dominican roots. Raphael Aleman (CWR ’22), a fellow student of Latino heritage, always knew his friend was nearby because he’d heard him loudly bellow “hermano,” which means “brother” in Spanish.
“Naturally, I would always bellow it back,” Aleman said. “Derian was the ultimate hype man. He was the type of person who automatically just made you feel good by giving you a compliment or a big smile.”
That genuineness and humor extended to his studies. Kaleigh May, a sixth-year PhD candidate at Weatherhead School of Management, described Dominguez as a high-spirited, enthusiastic student who was eager to learn and engage with the material in the organizational behavior class she taught.
“We actually ran into each other at the Jolly Scholar after I had just sung karaoke with friends—I was very embarrassed,” May recalled. “We chatted and joked, and he shared how much he enjoyed my class. He made an embarrassing moment for me less awkward, something he often did in class.”
May said Dominguez could easily talk to any of his classmates, and he regularly shared stories about his siblings—two older sisters, a younger brother and younger sister—and how much he cared about them.
Megan Buchter, adjunct professor at the Weatherhead School, said Dominguez’s interest in entrepreneurship was evident in her entrepreneurship strategy class this spring.
“[Derian] always asked great questions of the entrepreneurs that visited our class,” she recalled. “He was always smiling and was never afraid to come up and talk to me after class or reach out if he had questions. His happy, eager presence will be missed.”
Funeral services are to be held Saturday, Aug. 12, from 2 to 6 p.m. at Ortiz Funeral Home at 2121 Westchester Ave, Bronx, New York.
Students who would like support during this time are encouraged to contact University Health and Counseling Services at 216.368.5872. This line is staffed by a counselor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Faculty and staff can access counseling at any time by calling IMPACT Solutions at 1.800.227.6007.