Junior Lenon Padilla, a pre-nursing major, died Saturday, September 14. He was 20.

Born March 5, 1999, he was raised in Folsom and graduated in 2017 from Vista del Lago High School, where he is remembered as an athlete and supremely talented performer. After beginning his undergraduate studies at Chico State that fall, he became a beloved part of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity and was an active member of Young Life.

His faculty wholeheartedly agreed that Padilla was a truly exceptional student, with a warm personality, quick wit, and bright future ahead. No matter the subject, he took great pride in his coursework, enthusiastically engaged in his learning, and interacted regularly with his professors inside and outside the classroom.

“Lenon was the most energetic, spirited, caring and creative person,” said music and theatre faculty Marie Downing. “He put himself out there in class discussions, always contributing his point of view and sharing his experiences with the class. He was valued by his friends, peers, and teachers. He respected others and celebrated their differences.”

Portrait of Lenon Padilla against a brick wall.
Away from his studies, Padilla enjoyed writing and performing music, participating in Young Life, and being a part of Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

Organic chemistry can be a tough course for many students but Padilla was up to the challenge, recalled faculty member Tiffani Anderson. He always asked questions during lecture, eagerly helped others during experiments, and often stayed after lab to discuss science.

“Lenon was always such a bright spot in class with his quick wit and sense of humor,” said kinesiology faculty Jolene Barry. “He had amazing potential with his incredibly personable demeanor, ability to make quick friends and make everyone laugh.”

Remembering his sense of humor and smile, kinesiology faculty Joc Clark said he was humbled by the chance to have known Padilla, and that his presence in the classroom made it a friendlier and more collegial learning environment.

“His kind demeanor made him friends with the entire class and professor,” he said. “We all felt a connection with Lenon. He was so genuine and at ease, curious, with an uplifting spirit.”

Padilla was also deeply connected to his faith and his gift of music, and known for his prolific song-writing. Last summer, he volunteered at Young Life’s Woodleaf camp and wrote dozens of songs of worship. To honor both those passions, a GoFundMe has been established to support the Vista del Lago High School Folsom Guitar Nation program and the Young Life College program in Chico in his memory.

He is survived by his mother, Charmaine Ann Padilla, father Pat, and brother Lance Padilla.  

The University will lower the flag in his memory Thursday, September 19. A visitation will be held at Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Folsom from 12:30–2 p.m. Saturday, September 21. A funeral mass will follow from 2–3 p.m. and a celebration of life will take place from 3–5 p.m. at the parish hall next to the church.