HYDE PARK — Austin Hudson-LaPore had a fascination with nature his entire life.
"He loved science," his father, Gregg LaPore, told reporters Thursday morning. "He would get up at 3 in the morning, turn on the Weather Channel and watch that."
The body of the 20-year University of Chicago student Hudson-LaPore was found on the shores of Lake Michigan on Wednesday, days after he disappeared following his last final exam for the year.
The biochemistry major, whom family described as an adventurous young man, was believed to have stepped outdoors to see the tail-end of an intense storm last week.
"What we see so far suggests this was a tragic accident," said aunt Leigh LaPore Harris.
A Thursday autopsy from the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Hudson-LaPore's drowing accidental.
"Austin loved watching the weather. A stormy night on the lakefront and some free time after the end of his finals, would've been hard for him to resist," LaPore Harris said.
At a news conference at the university's Rockefeller Chapel, the family thanked the public for a search that received help from social media and K-9 search teams.
"This experience has shown the goodness in so many people," Lapore Harris said.
University officials said an on-campus memorial service is being planned, and counselors will be available to help those requesting services.
Hudson-LaPore was a baseball and racing fan, but was more interested in the statistics and numbers associated with the sports than the teams and personalities.
A rising senior who decided in seventh grade he would get a Ph.D. in chemistry, Hudson-LaPore was considering graduate programs farther West because he wanted to be closer to nature, his family said.
"He was adventurous, joyful and present in every moment," mother Laurie Hudson said.
But the New Mexico man loved Chicago, not only for its many classical music venues but for Lake Michigan.
"He loved the lake. The lake is wild and the city is right there," his father said. "He often would walk for hours Downtown and ride the bus back. It was a great way for him to clear his head."
Before moving off campus, Hudson-LaPore was a resident of the university's Shorey House, which members describe as a residential community that serves as a family to one another on campus.
Many of them grew to be close friends of Hudson-LaPore.
Aenea Raskin, 21, said she last saw her best friend Tuesday. She had dropped off some cookies she made for him and gave him a big hug.
"He gave the best hugs on campus," Raskin said.