Christopher Ting Fung Dennis, 22, a Cornell senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and native of Ithaca, has been missing since the morning of Wednesday, May 22, after he parted from friends at a campsite in Trumansburg, N.Y., to canoe alone on Cayuga Lake. Friends and family gathered to remember Dennis and celebrate his life this past Monday at Taughannock Falls State Park in Trumansburg.
“Our Cornell community mourns the loss of Chris Dennis, an active and caring Cornell senior and Ithacan, and we offer our heartfelt condolences to Chris’ family and many local friends,” said Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services. “Chris would have joined his fellow classmates, family and friends at Commencement ceremonies this past weekend, and his loss at this otherwise joyous and hopeful time on our campus is especially tragic.”
Dennis, of Cayuga Heights Road in Ithaca, had been camping with friends on Wednesday morning when he took a canoe out on to the lake at about 5 a.m. and did not return, according to friends, who found his canoe overturned in the middle of the lake shortly after noon on Wednesday. The Seneca County Sheriff’s Department began organizing a search of the area that evening, and the search grew over several days to include many other agencies, as well as hundreds of volunteer searchers from Cornell and the Ithaca community. As of May 27, official search efforts had been suspended; however, the sheriff’s department said it will maintain a presence on Cayuga Lake for the foreseeable future and follow up on any leads.
Dennis was a 2009 graduate of Ithaca High School, and he was a double-major at Cornell in international agriculture and rural development and communication. He transferred to CALS in 2010 from McGill University, and he took a year away from his undergraduate studies in 2011-12 to do volunteer work in Haiti. He and four of his high school friends developed several bamboo nurseries in Haiti to help ease the island’s environmental crisis and house Haitians rendered homeless by the earthquake of January 2010, and this ongoing project was close to his heart. Among his other interests and activities, Dennis enjoyed taking pictures and videos, and he was an avid filmmaker. He was a videographer for The Cornell Daily Sun, and family and friends say he also applied his filmmaking talents to his passion for local and global environmental issues. He was active, as well, with KyotoNOW and the Cornell Permaculture Club.
His parents, John V. Dennis Jr. and Minfong Ho, are residents of Ithaca and both are Cornell alumni, as are his grandparents, Rih Lo and Lienfung Li. He has an older sister, Meimei, and an older brother, Danfung, also a Cornell alumnus.
Support services are available to all members of the Cornell community. Students may consult with a Gannett health care provider or counselor by calling 607-255-5155. Employees may call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at 607-255-2673. An Ithaca-based CrisisLine is available at 607-272-1616. For additional resources, visit the Caring Community site.