The Oakland Graduate Who We Lost

After the winter semester of 2013, Trace Pillars had graduated from Oakland University.  With skills in programming and software design, and a degree in computer sciences, it’s of little wonder that he got a job right after graduating–he became a software developer at E7 Solutions, LLC, in Auburn Hills. Working hard, he had a stable position at the company for two years and with decent pay managed to buy himself an apartment near his workplace in February of 2016.  He mentioned to his friends that one possible future he was considering was to move to the western states where the programming industry was hot right now, and it seemed that particular future was looking bright.

Trace Pillars, 23, in his parents’ home in 2014. Trace graduated
from Oakland University with a degree in computer sciences in 2013.

On the morning of March 31, 2016, Trace Pillars was found dead in his apartment.

I’m going to be honest with you, since a journalist–or a student studying to be one–should always be upfront with his readers.  Trace Pillars was my friend.  Not just any friend either; one of my absolute best friends.  And you can say whatever you want about bias coloring your storytelling lens or doing a story on somebody you knew personally, but in this case this is the one time I have to say “forget that.”  He was an individual who stood as a paragon of what somebody should strive to be, and his is a story worth telling–even if I have to tell it myself, and only in pieces due to an enforced word limit.

And against everything I’ve been taught as a journalist, I will be calling him by his first name throughout this, except for in photo captions.

John Keyes, left, and Trace Pillars, right, before the Eisenhower
High School 2010 Prom.  The photo was taken in the backyard of
the Pillars residence.

A Portrait of a Man

Trace, before anything, was an incredibly intelligent person.  He built computers in his spare time for fun, and slept through classes and would walk out with straight As even so. “Let me know if you guys ever have an idea for a program or web browser add-on.  I’ll see if I can make it,” Trace once told a group of his friends, shortly after having them test out a local chatroom he had created. Trace also enjoyed making videos for Youtube on occasion.

Pillars, hard at work on his laptop. Programming and computer
gaming were two of Trace’s passions in life.

Perhaps Trace’s most defining trait, however, was his infectious sense of humor.  The unfunny became funny with Trace; he could find a video that was utterly horrible and make it funny just by his reactions to it.  He would make a punchline out of the most inane things. His ability to make even the most stalwart individuals laugh no doubt contributed greatly to him securing a permanent position outside of school once he graduated.

Trace graduated from Eisenhower High School in 2010, and enrolled in Oakland University the following fall semester.  He worked hard and took as many classes as he could whenever possible, which paid off by allowing him to graduate a mere three years later.  Immediately after graduating, Trace’s skills and high grades got him a job at E7 Solutions, LLC.

“They offer flexible hours and great pay.  I can work from home even, if I want, so long as I have my work ready on time.” Trace once told me when I asked him what he liked about his job.  E7 was doing great for him, and he had graduated from Oakland and jumped right onto the train into a fulfilling adult life.

Oakland University’s campus after a rainy day. Pillars graduated from the
University in 2010.

Dark Clouds On the Horizon

Trace, however, had his own demons that he was fighting behind the mask of joy and laughter he put on for others.  Sometime after his graduation, or perhaps even before, he had fallen into depression from the pressures of life.

He kept it from his friends, but Trace began to seek counseling for his depression, with his parents’ help.  He was prescribed anti-depressants, and was beginning to overcome it all. Things were looking up, and anybody could see that he was a young man ready to seize his life and move forward again.

Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.  The early morning of March 31st, a conflict between Trace’s medication and another drug caused him to pass away in his sleep. It was ruled an accident and not a suicide–a verdict people who knew Trace knew to be correct. And yet despite all that, one fact still remained: a life had been cut short in its prime.

That Which Is Inherited

The reason all of this is worth sharing is because Trace’s story can easily be any of us.  Depression can hit even the most successful of us students.  Whether you’re an Oakland graduate moving away, a graduate with a job lined up right after school, a student still working hard at their degree…it could affect any of us.

Though he is gone, Trace’s memory remains strong among those who knew him.  This, of course, includes myself.  He was a shining example of what one person should strive to be; a success story of a man who made it out of the college gauntlet with a good job waiting for him and the world as his oyster.  And it is his example that I follow.  It’s so others will know his story that I write this.  And I wish I could tell you everything, and all of the details, but this assignment DOES have a word limit.  If people are interested, I could definitely write an extended thing about Trace and his life, and all the stories of those he inspired with his hard work.

But at the end of the day, I have one thing I want people to take away from this story: don’t ever fight depression alone.  Don’t worry about what your friends or loved ones will think.  They’re there for you, and having them there to help is always a better alternative than fighting depression alone.

The inner wall near the stairs in
the Pillars residence. The message
scrawled within shows that though Pillars
is gone, he is not forgotten.


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