Damith Ayaska Fernando (widely known as Ayaska), Yale School of Medicine’s director of admissions and a beloved campus figure at Yale and in the wider New Haven community, died Oct. 2 after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 35.As director of admissions, he helped lead strategic and technological improvements to the admissions process and initiated efforts to attract creative and compassionate future physicians to Yale from across the country and around the world.
Ayaska, a native of Sri Lanka, was known in his homeland and across Yale for his sharp mind, his analytic prowess, and especially for his charismatic, warm, and engaging personality. Together with his wife Liz, he was a devoted resident fellow of Yale’s Jonathan Edwards College. His extensive knowledge and love of food and wine, along with his outgoing personality, enlivened every gathering.A man for all seasons, he could tickle the ivories; emcee an event with charm and class; fix any computer glitch; or give aid, comfort, and support in an emergency. He loved hiking and exploring the national parks in Sri Lanka as well as in the United States, often spotting famously elusive wildlife species with his eagle-eyed vision. He was also a devoted Yale sports fan. In his honor, the 148th football team fielded in Yale’s history, held a sign during its season opener: “Team 148 is on Team Ayaska.”