Thu Yain Kyaw ‘wanted to make a difference’

Those who knew Thu Yain “Roy” Kyaw remember him for his leadership and unwavering friendship. Kyaw, a sophomore from Singapore, was found dead in his apartment Sunday night. He was 22 years old.

A student in the Marshall School of Business, Roy came to USC last year to study business administration after spending two years serving in the Singaporean Armed Forces.

His brother, Arkar Kyaw, posted a public message to Facebook encouraging those who knew Roy to stay strong and celebrate the time they had with him.

“I know it’s a hard time for everyone especially because of how sudden these news are. However, I just want everyone to remember that accidents do happen, and death is as inevitable a part of life as life itself — his departure just came a lot sooner than we expected. He has gone on to a better place now and is resting in peace smiling, because all of you have made his life up to this point worth living! Thank you so much for that,” Arkar wrote.

Kevin Cai, a junior majoring in business administration, said he met Roy through the business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi. Cai said Kyaw was not only a leader in the fraternity, but the backbone of their pledge class.

“He was older, but he was super humble,” Cai said. “Within the first week, he became the stabilizing force of our pledge class.”

Daniel Yang, Roy’s friend and a member of DSP, said he never forgot his humble beginnings.

“He knew his parents sacrificed so much for him to be here at USC and get an American education,” Yang said. “His goal was to eventually go back to Myanmar and really give back to his family and his country.”

Though Roy was a business student, he used opportunities given to him to explore other classes outside of the Marshall School. International Relations Professor Steven Lamy said he got to know Roy through his sophomore seminar.

During a dinner with a class speaker last week, Lamy said Roy discussed his future aspirations and his native Myanmar.

“He wanted to find a position in economic consulting or investment and he wanted eventually to return to Burma, where his family was from, and help it succeed in the global economy,” Lamy said in an email to the Daily Trojan. “Roy wanted to be successful, but he also wanted to make a difference.”

Lamy said Roy’s commitment and passion for learning will be missed by all who knew him.

“In my class, he was always in the front row taking notes and listening and asking questions,” Lamy said. “He did not spend time on his computer checking emails. He valued the insights he learned from every speaker.”

As an international student, Yang said Roy appreciated every opportunity offered at USC.

“He didn’t take an education from ’SC for granted,” Yang said. “He completely understood what getting an American education at USC meant.”

Regardless of Roy’s future plans, Cai said there was no doubt that he would have been successful.

“Everyone knew he was going to succeed,” Cai said. “He was aspiring to go a million different ways, and I’m sure he could have done any of them.”

For those who knew him well, the unconfirmed reports of alcohol poisoning as Kyaw’s cause of death were difficult to hear.

“He would be the one to make sure that everyone was OK,” Cai said. “He would always be the one to offer to be [the designated driver], so to hear that it’s possible it’s alcohol poisoning is just really hard to believe.”

Cai recalled how he and Roy had plans to meet for dinner and Cai considered canceling. Though he was busy, Cai said he was glad he didn’t.

“I actually grabbed Burmese food with him and some of our pledge brothers,” Cai said. “This tragedy is just a reminder to be a man of your word. If you mean it when you say, ‘Hey, I miss you’ or ‘Hey, I want to hang out,’ you have to do it.”

Yang said the way Roy led his life would be his ultimate legacy.

“Roy taught me to make the most out of every moment — not every day, but every single moment,” Yang said. “Now that he’s gone, the lesson never really hit me until now.”

Roy is survived by parents, an older brother and an older sister.

A memorial service for Roy is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. in Bovard Auditorium.


Follow Yasmeen on Twitter @YasmeenSerhan 

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected to reflect the change in the memorial location and that Kyaw is survived by his parents, an older brother and an older sister. An earlier version said Kyaw is survived by his parents and his older brother. 

The Daily Trojan regrets the error. 

3 replies
  1. Victor Tan
    Victor Tan says:

    He had been a well-liked pupil back in the days of his secondary school. He studied in Ang Mo Kio Secondary School in Singapore, and was a member of the school badminton team.
    Despite the fact that he was a reserve player, he had always showed commitment to spar with the main team players, and to help coach the juniors. His willingness to help others and humility in all things had endeared himself to many, students and teachers alike.

  2. Props to DT
    Props to DT says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write a fair tribute to the life of a well-liked USC student, and stopping yourself from succumbing to the sensationalist journalism and guessing games exercised by a separate publication on our campus.

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