Oladapo Atitebi, CC '11, known to friends as an avid Sherlock Holmes fan, “terrific dancer,” supporter of the Manchester United Football Club, and former secretary and webmaster of Columbia University African Students Association, died on Feb. 10 at the age of 24.
Atitebi, called “Dapo” by his friends, was a computer science major who had been fighting gastrointestinal cancer for seven months. He came to Columbia from Nigeria and was an active member of the African Students Association, serving as secretary from 2007 to 2008 and webmaster from 2008 to 2009.
“He was our go-to comedian and playwright. He also played guitar and melted hearts with his piano in our semiannual Milo Coffee House,” ASA member Lauretta Ambe, CC '14, said. “We will always remember him as this big teddy bear who could melt hearts with his smile, his amazingly infectious laughter that would always cut through any kind of tension going on in ASA meetings.”
ASA President Elsie Ennin, BC '15, also spoke of Atitebi's musicality and his involvement in ASA, especially in its annual Afropolitan showcase.
“Dapo has always written a skit. He was one of the staples that people really loved in the show and always had constant energy. His skits were a pivotal part of the organization,” Ennin said.
Even after graduating, Atitebi remained an active part of campus life—he visited campus in September for the fifth annual Afropolitan show.
“The ASA was very devastated when we heard the news because Dapo is really like one of the glues that connect us all together, alumni and current students,” Ennin said.
Atitebi was living in New York with two friends from Columbia—Alexander Tsado, SEAS '12, and Ishmael Osekre, GS '10—when he was diagnosed with stage-four gastrointestinal cancer in August 2013.
“His last few months were filled with bravery and hard work, trying to fight this sickness that was really unexpected,” Osekre said. “We all didn't see this coming.”
“We left the hospital with a resolution to just fight this, because he was too young,” Osekre said.
Tsado remembered Atitebi as a life-changing friend, whom he first met after an ASA meeting.
“I went to his dorm room at about 11 p.m., introduced myself and from there we just became friends,” Tsado said. “We ended up staying that night, working on that computer science homework till about 5, 6 a.m. He pretty much taught me how to program and today I'm a programmer, so he pretty much taught me my trade.”
Nicholas Litombe, SEAS '07 and another close friend of Atitebi, said that Atitebi “did not fit in any box.”
“He was very smart, he had the most boisterous laugh,” Litombe said. “He was really funny, with perfect comedic timing and with a very charming personality with dimples to boot.
“We often bonded over being the only black kids in our science and math courses that we took at Columbia. There is that very intellectual, sciency part of him,” Litombe said. “In conversations with Dapo, you could always expect to have your mind expanded and to laugh till your belly hurt. He was very intellectual in an effortless way, you know.”
ASA is collecting flowers and messages from the Columbia community to give to Atitebi's family at the funeral on Feb. 17, and will be donating the proceeds from its 10th anniversary gala in April to the American Cancer Society in honor of Atitebi.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated that Atitebi was SEAS '10. He was actually CC '11. Spectator regrets the error.
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