U. of C. student dies days after being struck by stray bullet on Green Line: ‘He was a ball of light’

Denver native Max Lewis died days after he was shot on an L train. Friends remembered him as an outgoing and welcoming presence.

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Max Lewis, pictured at the University of Chicago.

Max Lewis, pictured at the University of Chicago.


Max Lewis didn’t have to make the trek downtown.

The affable 20-year-old University of Chicago junior had the option to work from home for the competitive internship he’d landed at a Loop investment firm, but he “loved getting to know as many people as he could,” according to his best friend.

“He loved the grind,” Zach Cogan said of his classmate and fraternity brother.

Lewis was commuting home during rush hour Thursday when a bullet pierced the window of his train at the 51st Street Green Line station and entered his neck. He died at a hospital Sunday morning.

Police say he wasn’t the intended target. Investigators have yet to provide a possible description of the shooter. It’s not even clear which direction the gunfire came from.

“It’s a senseless tragedy for so many reasons,” Cogan said.

Friends of Lewis remembered him as a gregarious jokester, a hyper-focused student, an avid runner and a car guy — one who went out of his way to make people feel welcome.

“He was so incredibly caring, loyal and genuine,” said Cogan, who met Lewis on their first day at the prestigious Hyde Park campus and roomed with him at Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Jewish fraternity of which Lewis was president. “He loved working hard for other people because he was so damn selfless. And he never wanted people to thank him for what he did.”

Max Lewis, pictured in 2019.

Max Lewis, pictured in 2019.

Provided by Kent Denver School.

The Denver-area native was studying economics and computer science. He graduated in 2019 from the Kent Denver School, a prestigious private school. His 12th grade physics teacher, Dr. Rand Harrington, said in an email “he grew into an exceptional scholar full of good humor, curiosity, drive and a deep passion for technology.”

At the U. of C., Lewis was a leader of Promontory Investment Research, a student group that helps interested undergrads produce and write research reports — a field Lewis was passionate about, his friend Victoria Gin said.

“He was a ball of light,” Gin said, especially in the early dark days of COVID-19, when the group’s meetings were all virtual. “Max would bring his energy like he was in person. He would give 120%, and you felt that through the screen.”

When he wasn’t busy somewhere on campus, he’d be touching base with friends during hour-long phone calls, or while tagging along for a trip to the grocery store.

“He was like this butterfly,” Cogan said.

Max Lewis, a University of Chicago junior, died Sunday after begin shot on a Green Line train on the South Side.

Max Lewis, a University of Chicago junior, died Sunday after begin shot on a Green Line train on the South Side.


Lewis also loved talking cars, especially the one he coveted most: the Porsche 911. “But anything that had a stick, he’d drive it, just because he could,” Cogan said.

Only a few weeks before the shooting, Lewis had started interning for Segall Bryant & Hamill, according to his LinkedIn profile. A spokesperson for the firm couldn’t be reached.

And he’d already been looking forward to a big internship he’d just landed for next summer, according to Gin. “My latest conversations with him were so optimistic,” she said.

In a message to students and faculty, U. of C. officials said, “the University is devastated by Max’s loss. During this sorrowful time, our deepest sympathies are with Max’s family, friends, and all who knew him. Max was a talented student and beloved campus leader and friend who will be greatly missed.”

Lewis is survived by his parents and younger brother.

His fraternity launched an online campaign to help cover members’ travel costs to funeral services in Denver. Remaining proceeds will go to the Rivkin Foundation, which funds ovarian cancer research, as well as a to-be-determined anti-gun violence group, Cogan said.

“This happens all the time in Chicago,” Cogan said. “It needs to end.”

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