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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis Alum, Brian Paternostro ’08 Passes Away

Published: September 21, 2012
Section: News

Brian Paternostro ’08, a dedicated friend and passionate Brandeis theater star, died on Sept. 12 after a long struggle with cancer. He was 27.

During his time at Brandeis, Paternostro participated in the Free Play Theater Cooperative, the Hillel Theatre Group (HTG), directed the 2005 HTG production “Hair” and was the Student Union Director of Communications, among other accomplishments. He also graduated with a degree in politics.

Mark Samburg, Paternostro’s close friend and the producer of HTG’s 2005 production of “Hair” recalled his warm personality and joy of theater.

“One night Brian just knocked on my door, in this booming ridiculous voice, he said “Samburg! We are doing “Hair” and I need you to produce it,” said Samburg. “He was always very proud and happy that he had directed “Hair.” I remember the cast and crew looking back on “Hair” with fond memories; we had an unbelievable time. We put on one hell of a show, that was all Brian.”

According to Samburg, he stood out on campus because of his caring personality in addition to his unique height. “You couldn’t find anyone at Brandeis who didn’t know Brian,” Samburg continued. “Brandeis isn’t a huge school, but that means something. Brian was six foot six, and everyone knew who he was. Brian genuinely cared about people, and he liked doing things that made people happy and that brought people together. That is a big part of why he was so special to the Brandeis community.”

Susan Dibble, the Brandeis Director of Theater Arts spoke fondly about Paternostro as a student in her modern dance class, several years ago.

“I remember that Brian was very tall, and that he clearly wanted to explore. I just loved the fact that he was a risk taker,” Dibble said.

“Brian had strong ideas about theater, and he was very vocal in the theater department and interested in directing,” Dibble added. “What I loved was that he had a political dynamic about him, but he was also gentle and quiet. I like that character because I understand that sort of person.”

Dibble described Brian’s personality as a “balance” between politics and theater. Brian’s balanced personality exemplified the balance at Brandeis between political passion and the arts. “Being a politics major and being involved in theater was a great combination for Brian,” Dibble said.

“While Brian was at Brandeis, he was really trying to discover who he was. And my impression of him was that he always asked questions, and that is an important thing. He was a walking question, and he was great with his long legs,” Dibble said.

Following graduation, Paternostro was the Development Coordinator at United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization that encourages donors, advocates and volunteers to help improve the lives of people in the region.

“Brian brought together people from all walks of campus,” Samburg said. “Brian was such a special friend. That’s one side of Brian everybody misses. The other side of Brian is that I never knew anybody more fun than he was. The laughter and the car rides and everything else in between. Time with Brian was going to be fun, you always knew. At his funeral on Monday, I saw people I haven’t seen in five years. We had this unbelievable shared connection and that was a friendship with Brian. His ability to befriend so many different people was unparallelled by anyone at Brandeis. Everything felt larger than life with Brian because of his energy. You couldn’t stop him.”

Brian is survived by his parents, Carl and Denise Paternostro and by his brother Jeffrey, all from Wethersfield, Conn.