Daniel Hamilton
Daniel Hamilton in the field with a blue iguana.

A 21-year-old Purdue student, who had a life-long passion for reptiles, died on Friday while on a volunteer trip to the Cayman Islands with the Blue Iguana Recovery Program.

Hamilton, senior in the College of Agriculture, died from hyperthermia, or heat stroke. He was found in the thick bush in Grand Cayman where he was taken by paramedics to a hospital but later died. He was from Hebron, Ind.

The resonating message from family and friends close to Hamilton was that his passion has always been reptiles and wildlife.

Rod Williams, an associate professor of wildlife science, helped Hamilton share his love for reptiles through one of Williams’ classes called nature of service learning. Hamilton was able to go to a local elementary school and present to children a lesson on wildlife and the environment.

“In my interactions with Daniel, he had two passions. He had a passion for herpetology (study of reptiles and amphibians) and a passion for teaching people about natural resources and the environment, especially if it involved amphibians and reptiles,” Williams said.

 Hamilton’s brother and a Purdue alumnus, John Hamilton, said his brother, even from a young age, would indulge in his love for animals, especially reptiles.

“I don’t remember a time when he didn’t like dinosaurs or reptiles,” John said. “He always had a way with them, it was nice to see someone so in tune with those creatures.”

 His mother, father, two sisters and brother all got to spend time with Hamilton before his trip to the Cayman Islands. John said those moments have stayed vivid in his mind.

“It was nice to be talking with him in person, to have him with us,” John said. “Those moments are very precious to us.”

John remembers Hamilton as always being a fun and honest person.

“He was a very fair and genuine person,” John said. “He lived life honestly.”

His exuberance for life made an impression on a family friend and roommate, Christina Morse, a recent graduate from the College of Liberal Arts. She said Hamilton was always positive and he made sure a situation never got boring by cracking jokes.

“He was very much about making jokes and making people laugh,” Morse said. “He always wanted the best for people.”

Hamilton died around the creatures he loved the most. Morse said he was doing what he truly loved and believed in.

“He was one of the few students that went to Purdue to do something he absolutely loved instead of doing something to get a job one day,” Morse said.

John regarded Hamilton the same way.

“His passion was his life,” John said.

The funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 505 Bullseye Lake Road, in Valparaiso, Ind. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program.

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