Jesse Short-Gershman

A beautiful mind gone to soon

A beautiful mind gone too soon

At just 16, Jesse Short-Gershman started his bachelor’s degree at UVic. By 19, he had an honours degree in math and computer science. Upon graduation, he won the Governor General's Silver Medal for the highest undergraduate GPA and a full scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in computer science. Jesse took a huge leap of faith and moved to California partway through the program to take an internship with Google. That led to a dream job offer of full-time employment with Google. But only a year later his life took an unexpected turn.

“Known for his gentle eyes and kind nature,” his obituary states, “Jesse's only enemy on this earth was his complex syndrome of obsessive-compulsive disorder and recent acute situational depression over the loss of his job. After unsuccessful treatment received months before he passed, Jesse channelled his strength and courage towards a definitive end to his suffering.”

Jesse’s tragic death left an enormous void in the lives of many, especially his parents, Erin Short and Stu Gershman. From the depths of their pain, they began to think about Jesse’s legacy. Since Jesse so loved studying math and computer science at UVic, they chose to memorialize that passion with the Jesse Short-Gershman Scholarship, an award in those two departments to assist other gifted students dealing with health or mental health issues.

 

Hannah and Erin
Hannah and Jesse’s mother, Erin, felt a strong connection when they met.

Jesse's legacy is now helping others

Hannah Swan, one of the first recipients of the award, displays a similar avid enthusiasm for math as Jesse did. The second-year student is excelling in a double major in math and physics, but financial and health challenges continually threaten her success. Hannah lives alone and supports herself at university while dealing with a rare, complicated health issue. The debilitating physical illness also generates anxiety and depression. It worsened towards the end of her first year, causing her to lose consciousness and suffer seizures up to 20 times a day.  

She was close to quitting when she discovered she’d been awarded the Jesse Short-Gershman Scholarship. “It was an emotional moment,” Hannah says. “It encouraged me to continue to find ways to overcome my illness and not let it prevent me from doing what I’m passionate about.” Not only did the financial support help her stay on at UVic, learning about Jesse’s struggles and why the award was created helped Hannah trust that she could excel despite her illness.

 “I just love math,” Hannah gushed when she met Erin Short for the first time. “I love being able to describe concepts in this universal language. I also love the rigour of it,” she explained. Erin smiled, knowing it was exactly the sentiment her son would have shared.

Jesse’s parents hope that keeping his story alive might save other young people—help them find the right supports so their struggle doesn’t end tragically, as Jesse’s did. Hannah wants to honour that by proudly adding the scholarship to her résumé, and ultimately, overcoming the challenges she faces to achieve her goals.

“I really appreciate that Erin and Stu chose to take Jesse’s struggle and turn it into something that is a very powerful aid for students,” says Hannah. “I feel so honoured to have been given this gift. To be given, what was for me, a second chance.”