The tech community suffered a devastating loss Saturday when a 34-year-old digital consultant died while on a charity bike ride.
Jacob Thomas Brewer, who friends on both coasts knew as Jake, was remembered as a beloved colleague in the campaign community. “He was like my brother,” said Shayna Englin, a managing director at Change.org, where Brewer served as director of external affairs before joining the White House.
John Holdren, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said Brewer's co-workers were “struggling to think of ways we can help.”
Brewer was cycling in the Ride to Conquer Cancer when he was killed in a fatal oncoming collision with a car. His family asked the race to continue Sept. 19. Michael Silberman, director of digital mobilization at Greenpeace was among Brewer’s friends who rode that Saturday. He remembered a data-loving tech advocate.
“It’s about seeing potential in people that others might not see,” Silberman told the Washington Post, like “what’s possible with technology and civic participation.”
Brewer was four months into his stint in the Obama administration, according to his LinkedIn. He had a tour of the West Wing with his mother and step father scheduled for Sunday.
Brewer was a visionary in his dream job, said Micah Sifry, co-founder and executive director of Civic Hall in New York City. “What makes this news doubly painful is that Jake was in the prime of his life and still on the rising arc of a career in good works that was rocketing higher with every day,” he wrote.
Cheryl Contee, CEO of Fission Strategy where she worked with Brewer, echoed Sifry. "Jake had unlimited potential to do good in the world," said Contee. “Yet knowing he's joined the stars in the heavens will keep those who knew him or knew of him looking skyward."
Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith said Brewer, in the past two weeks, had been “leading our participation in an event in the Bronx to help underprivileged young people learn to code; working with our colleagues to accelerate the President’s TechHire Initiative; and bringing together leaders from industry and government to use data to connect those with key skills to job opportunities.”
His colleagues are imagining what he could have accomplished with more time. For clues, Sifry recalled a recent email from Brewer pitching him on doing a convention talk he slugged “Founding Fathers as original startup founders.’”
The current president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama joined in remembering Brewer. In a statement, they paid tribute to Mary Katharine Ham, a Fox News contributor and editor-at-large of Hot Air, the couple's daughter, Georgia, "and their growing family. They'll always have a family here at the White House.”
Meanwhile, a crowdfunding page for the family raised more than half its $200,000 goal from some 1,200 donors by late Sunday. A remembrance Facebook page grew to more than 2,100 friends and on Twitter the hastag #RebelAlliance was used to express shock at Brewer’s sudden passing.