Luke Bailey Santos, an economics student at Fordham College at Rose Hill who was passionate about public service and worked on numerous political campaigns across the East Coast, died in his off-campus apartment on Feb. 20. The cause of death is not yet known. He was 20 years old. 

We pray hard for Luke’s family and friends who are grieving right now at this terrible tragedy,” wrote Tania Tetlow, president of Fordham, in a message to the University community. “We will forever hold Luke’s memory in our hearts.” 

A Man for Others

Santos immersed himself in politics at a young age. He became involved in political campaigns when he was 14, working for well-known elected officials and campaign staff across Massachusetts and beyond. When he moved to New York City and became a Fordham student, he balanced his coursework with bolstering the New York City Council campaigns for Julie Won, Yusef Salaam, and Christopher Bae. Most recently, he served as a wealth management intern for The Taylor Group at Morgan Stanley.

Luke Santos as a child
Santos as a child in an undated photo

Santos was born on April 4, 2003, in Newton, Massachusetts. He graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public high school, where he was a member of the National Honor Society. 

Santos became interested in politics after an 8th-grade field trip to the Massachusetts State House. He soon printed his own business cards, donned his suit and tie, and returned to the state house on his own to introduce himself to whomever he could, according to an obituary written by his family.  

As a high school student, he provided support for several election campaigns, managing staff and budgets and canvassing local neighborhoods, according to his LinkedIn profile. At 15 years old, he even called into C-SPAN to share his thoughts on the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Later, he helped plan the 2018 Democratic State Convention in Massachusetts and the statewide coordinated campaign. He played a role in the campaigns of many candidates, including Joe Kennedy III’s run for U.S. Congress and Elizabeth Warren’s bids for U.S. Senate and president.

Santos was most passionate about affordable housing and social justice. When he was a junior in high school, he founded the Mask Up Project, a student group that distributed more than 800 homemade masks to those in need. Santos told his high school newspaper that he wanted to help “vulnerable communities such as our homeless population, who don’t have the luxury of socially distancing.”  

‘Make Sure Every Single Voice Matters Just As Much As Mine’ 

Santos often shared his passion for politics on social media, including one post about the day he officially joined the Democratic Party.

My grandpa grew up in public housing in New York, and my grandma was a school teacher who came from a family of immigrants and janitors. Today, their grandson (pre)registered as a Democrat. … I’m blown away that I actually have a chance for my voice to matter,” Santos posted on his Facebook profile in 2019. “And I’m gonna use this vote and fight like hell to make sure every single voice matters just as much as mine.” 

Despite his own view on politics, he supported camaraderie among parties. In 2017, he posted a photo from a Youth Action March, noting “it was an inspiring moment when young Democrats and Republicans joined together to say we are the voice of America.” 

In his spare time, Santos enjoyed traveling, skiing, fishing, and summering on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean with his family. He embraced his Filipino heritage through food, often introducing his friends to Filipino dishes in New York City and sharing his foodie adventures with his father. 

Luke brought joy to so many that were fortunate enough to have known him and will always be remembered for his independent spirit, love of nature, sharp analytical mind, boundless curiosity, and inspiring ambition,” Santos’s family wrote in his obituary

Santos is survived by his mother, Allison Bailey; father, Albertino Santos; stepfather, Joseph Audette; siblings Grace Mary Audette and Samuel Lancaster Audette; grandparents Rita and Gary Bailey and Alicia Santos; and many other aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. 

A University memorial service will be held for Santos at the Rose Hill campus on Feb. 28 in Sacred Heart Chapel, Dealy Hall, at 12:45 p.m. His wake will be held on March 1 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at Saint Cecilia Parish at 18 Belvidere Street, Boston, MA 02115. A funeral Mass will directly follow at the same location. Gifts in his name may be made to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Animal Medical Center.  

Luke Santos standing with a group of people around a podium
Santos with colleagues

Taylor is a visual storytelling strategist in Fordham University's marketing and communications department, where she documents University life through photography and video. Since joining Fordham in 2018, she has served as a writer, photographer, videographer, and social media manager, dividing her time between University Marketing and Communications and the Office of the President. She earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Stony Brook University's School of Communication and Journalism and her master's degree in public media from Fordham University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her work has appeared on NPR, NBC New York, and amNewYork METRO.