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Obituary: Tevin Tatro ’15

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Tevin Tatro ’15 of Hammond, Indiana passed away on Nov. 29, 2017 at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, Los Angeles, due to a cardiac arrest. He was 24.

Tevin Tatro ’15 // Courtesy Brian Moran ’15

Tatro graduated from the political science department in 2015, focusing on history and international security.

“I remember him as a super intelligent, inquiring, talented and really interesting student, someone whom I enjoyed talking to a lot about world affairs and history,” said his advisor, Norman Naimark, McDonnell Professor in East European studies.

Mona Thompson ’13, Tatro’s PHE in Burbank House, remembers him as kind, driven and smart. “He was always hanging out in the hallway with friends and stopping by my room to chat,” she said. “He would stay up until all hours of the night with friends.”

At the year-end dorm awards, Tatro won “The Great Debater,” a fitting reference to one of his favorite films.

Like his hero, Christopher Hitchens, he was hard to pin down ideologically but relished playing devil’s advocate. He was fond of Nozick over Rawls, but Johnson over Reagan. He was an American exceptionalist who scathingly criticized American intervention and tactics like rendition, drones and warrantless surveillance. He was in a hurry to see and do everything — road trips to national parks, presentations by friends and dormmates, using chopsticks to eat sushi. He lived by the mantra tattooed on his triceps: “carpe diem.”

Raised by and raising his foster family, Tatro was valedictorian and captain of the wrestling team at Morton High in Morton, Illinois. He loved playing pick-up basketball, music and Risk (only if he won). For years after graduation, he held his friend group together by wielding iron-fisted authority as fantasy football commissioner.

He was intensely guarded about his past, but always paid special attention to those in communities like the one he grew up in. He was a member of the Black Student Union and president of Stanford Splash!, a program bringing high school students to Stanford for fun, student-taught classes. Tatro’s class was called “How to Win Every Argument.”

Tatro particularly loved INTNLREL 173: “Presidents and Foreign Policy in Modern History,” taught by Robert Rakove, lecturer in international relations. The format – an hour per class role-playing U.S. national security officials at various points in history — showcased Tatro’s quick thinking, rhetorical cleverness and encyclopedic knowledge of terribly random facts, figures and statistics.

“I remember him as if the class wrapped up yesterday. Maybe it was his energetic, impassioned participation — he truly cared about understanding the choices made by political elites. Or it might have been his sense of humor and a certain mischievous laugh,” Rakove said. “No class was complete without him, and the room felt oddly silent the one time he couldn’t make it. The world will be a quieter, emptier place without him, but no one blessed to have known Tevin will ever forget him.”

A memorial service was held on Dec. 12, 2017 in Danville, Illinois. Three generations of Tatro’s family and foster family attended, along with a small group of Tatro’s friends from Stanford and Los Angeles. He was laid to rest under a cloudless blue sky at Spring Hill Cemetery, Danville.

– Ed Ngai ’15

Addendum: There will be a service at Stanford’s Memorial Church on Mar. 8 at 4 p.m. to celebrate Tevin’s time at Stanford and his impact on the community.

Ed Ngai was Editor-in-Chief of Vol. 244 of The Daily. Contact him at edwardngai94 ‘at’ gmail.com.