Remembering William Garrett Nash ’20

By SADIE HOUSBERG

COURTESY OF KRISTIN NASH
The Nash family from left to right: Kristin, Will, Drew, Cate, and Lenny.

William Garrett Nash lived without fear. His family and friends will remember him for his ability to live with joy in the present, his passion for innovating and the boundless love he held for those around him.

Will died on March 7 at Middlebury. He was 21 years old.

The world needs fearless people like Will Nash. They are our risk takers, our astronauts, our explorers, our entrepreneurs and our front-of-the-line first responders.”

Will grew up in San Anselmo, California with his twin brother, Drew, and younger sister, Cate. At Middlebury, he studied economics and Spanish, competed on the track and field team in pole vaulting through his sophomore year, and spent summers and much of his free time pursuing entrepreneurship.

COURTESY OF KRISTIN NASH
Will Nash (right) and twin brother Drew Nash (left).

“The world needs fearless people like Will Nash. They are our risk takers, our astronauts, our explorers, our entrepreneurs and our front-of-the-line first responders,” said Ross Sullivan, his pole-vaulting coach at Sir Francis Drake High School.

On the track, Will was intrepid. His mother, Kristen Nash, recalled that after watching the 2012 Olympics, Will decided he wanted to become a pole vaulter. And so, he did.

“By the start of his senior year in high school he was the leading vaulter in our county and third on our school’s all-time list,” Sullivan said.

That same year, a basketball-stunt-induced accident left casts on both of Will’s arms, putting an almost certain end to his high school vaulting career. But rather than accept defeat, Will spent the next several months training for speed and strength — broken arms and all. His casts were taken off right before the county meet and he still managed to qualify for California’s NCS Redwood Empire Championship Track Meet, where he finished runner-up.

“I have seen a lot of gutsy things in the 10 years I’ve coached pole vault, but without a doubt, watching Will on that day stands out from all others,” Sullivan said.

At Middlebury, he would achieve his personal record in pole vault, qualifying for the NESCAC Championship his sophomore year.

COURTESY OF KRISTIN NASH
Will Nash pole vaulting in high school.

In the classroom, Will could be a quiet student, but you would be mistaken to assume that he wasn’t engaged, said Middlebury Economics Professor David Munro. “When he shared, it was often some of the most insightful thoughts and questions which enriched our discussions,” Munro said.

“He was a searcher, reflecting with care on the meaning of our reading and our collective work,” said Jonathan Isham, an economics and environmental science professor.

Outside of his studies and athletic pursuits, Will was constantly innovating. Known as the “idea man” among his group of lifelong friends from elementary school, Will was always coming up with shenanigans or new business ideas. He could be found designing desks with built-in toasters or discussing ideas for a craft brew label with his father, Lenny Nash.

This entrepreneurial spirit continued to flourish at Middlebury. Will was selected for MiddCORE, an intensive experiential-learning program for leaders and innovators. Along with close friend and roommate Ayman Quadir ’20, he founded Semi Aquatics, a luxury streetwear brand focused on sustainable sourcing, in November of 2019.

Will embraced the possibility of failure better than anyone I know. He welcomed risk and adventured into the unknown with the wisdom of someone far beyond his years.”

It was Will’s fearlessness and creativity that made him so well-suited to the temperament of a true entrepreneur.

“Will embraced the possibility of failure better than anyone I know. He welcomed risk and adventured into the unknown with the wisdom of someone far beyond his years,” said Blaine Shira, Will’s older cousin. “I can only hope that at the end of my life, I have lived as much as Will did in his far too short, but full life.”

Whether it was skiing on the Alpine Meadows Big Mountain team in high school, rallying his friends for endless games of pick-up basketball or chasing wild boars in Spain, Will packed his days with action and adventure. Venturing far from his childhood home, Will lived in Barcelona with his family during his eighth-grade year, and studied abroad in Madrid during his junior year at Middlebury.

“His spirit of adventure was awesome. His humor was the best kind: quick and dry,” said his mother Kristin Nash. “But mostly, his capacity to love his family and his friends was beautiful and big.”

Above all, Will’s friends and family remember him as a true companion. He cultivated friendships with the same devotion and passion with which he approached entrepreneurial endeavors and athletic feats.

His innate freedom to explore and appreciate each moment, and to love so easily and completely, is the stuff that people might meditate for years to experience, but to Will it came naturally.”

Will remained close with a group of friends from his hometown – the self-proclaimed “Selmo Crew” — but made new friends easily wherever he went, whether at Middlebury or in Barcelona. Even as a kid, he never wanted to leave anyone out, Kristin Nash said. Childhood sleepovers would often entail pitching a tent and unrolling tons of sleeping bags to make enough room for everyone.

“His innate freedom to explore and appreciate each moment, and to love so easily and completely, is the stuff that people might meditate for years to experience, but to Will it came naturally,” Stephanie Nash, his aunt, said.

Friends at Middlebury attest to Will’s huge capacity to love. “He’d always be down to play one more round of NBA 2K, to stay up one more hour on a Saturday night, to cook one more meal in our suite even if GrilleMe was on the way,” Christian Chiang ’20 said.

His circle of friends was deep and close, Chiang said, and to those who loved him, Will reciprocated a generous and true friendship. “Will was the life of the party,” said his friend Christopher Woodburn ’20. “I don’t know a better way to describe him than that.”

“Above all else, he had a big heart,” added Chiang. “I don’t think there was any room for negativity in his life; he was always occupied with living his life to the fullest.”

COURTESY PHOTOS
On Will’s birthday this past Wednesday, friends and family around the world celebrated Will’s life by taking part in a virtual candle-lighting ceremony. He would have been 22. Photos courtesy of: James Finn; Jessica Bagshaw; Wendy Cliff; the Puccinelli family; John of Roseburg, Oregon; Marcie Santoemma; Jack Grehan; Paul Herzog; Sierra Jackovics; Lorna Thompson.

The Nash family hosted a virtual candle-lighting ceremony on Wednesday, April 29 – Will’s birthday — to celebrate his life. He would have been 22.

They remembered him on this day by taking in one of his favorite sights — the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean — and making lamb and beef Bolognese, one of his favorite recipes that he learned from his friend Ayman.

“Will was a friend to everyone. He lived fearlessly and on his own terms,” Kristin Nash said. “Although I was his mother, Will was one of my greatest teachers; he embodied everything I wish I could be. Now I will live everyday trying to live that way for him.”

MAX PADILLA
Friends and family took part in a memorial service for Will Nash on March 11.

Nash is survived by his parents Kristin and Lenny Nash; his twin brother Drew Nash, also 21, a senior at Wake Forest University; and his younger sister Cate, 19, a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley. 

A video recording of the memorial service held in Will’s honor at Middlebury this March can be found here. The college will award him a posthumous bachelor’s degree in economics.  

Will’s family has set up a William G. Nash Memorial Fund in Will’s honor, dedicated to promoting wellbeing among Marin County youth. To learn more about donating to that fund, please click here