Cecil's father said he wanted to be an entomologist, which earned him the nickname "Bugsy."
"He was becoming a happy and productive adult," the father, Joe Cecil, said.
But the 20-year-old student from Washington, D.C., died Thursday night after he was struck by a car just outside the NYIT campus.
Benjamin Cecil was crossing Carleton Avenue and South Research Place around 6:25 p.m. when he was hit by a 2004 Chevrolet Malibu driven by Mary Ann Malloy. He was pronounced dead at 8:44 p.m. at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, Suffolk police said.
Malloy, from Amityville, was not injured. Witnesses told police Malloy had the green light, and she is not facing any charges. Her car was impounded for a safety check and the investigation continues, said Det. Sgt. John Diffley of the Suffolk County Police Third Precinct.
Cecil was attending NYIT's Vocational Independence Program, which helps young adults with learning disabilities and autism. He chose the school because he had an auditory processing disorder, which made it difficult for him to read and understand speech.
In Washington, Cecil's father; his mother, Judith Freeman, and younger brother Andrew took their loss hard.
"We are pretty traumatized," his father said. "It's so hard to come to terms with what happened."
The dad and his older son were close. They volunteered at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, helping to create a digital photography archive of Green River fossils. "We were just amazed of how mature he was," he said.
"I was very proud of my son," said his father. "I am very glad he got to go to NYIT."
Nearly 40 students gathered in a lecture hall at the college at 7 a.m. Friday with counselors to help them cope with Cecil's death. The students stood in a circle and shared stories about him."He was an outgoing student who had a great sense of humor and loved to joke around," said Ernst O. VanBergeijk, associate dean and executive director of the Vocational Independence Program program.
A memorial service for Cecil will be held on Monday at 10 a.m. at the Adas Israel synagogue in Washington.