Remarks from President Daniels for Tyler Trent memorial service

January 9, 2019

In a community as big as ours, it’s inevitable that tragedy will now and then descend on us.  On April 15, as we do every year, we will hold the Golden Taps ceremony, at which we honor and mourn for those students taken from us during the year. We will remember Jessica Lin Marrs, Matt Kienosky, Erin Davis, and Tyler Stephan. Every student life is precious to us. With every loss, the poet’s bell tolls for us all.

But it’s right that we gather tonight to pay tribute in this special memorial to our most recently departed son and brother. Through no intention or effort of his own – he just camped out outside a ticket office – Tyler Trent became a symbol and an inspiration to everyone in the Purdue family, and to millions elsewhere.

We have asked Savannah Bratcher, president of Purdue Dance Marathon, and football co-captain Elijah Sindelar, to speak about two of the ways in which Tyler left lasting footprints during his too-brief days with us. 

A word one hears a lot here and around higher ed these days is “grit.” It’s slang for that combination of qualities like diligence, persistence and the resilience to face life’s inevitable adversity with fortitude. We look for it in potential Boilermakers, because it’s a proven indicator of academic success. We want to encourage every student that comes here to develop these traits, to help them through Purdue and all through life.

Tyler Trent was grit personified. Dealt a hand worse than anyone here is facing, or God willing ever will, he never stopped working, or fighting, or moving ahead. He never showed a trace of self-pity. If you tried to mumble through some awkward expression of sympathy, he’d shrug it off and change the subject, to his coursework or Purdue football, or the money he was raising for Riley Children’s Hospital.

Life brings trouble, and fear, and sadness to us all. But it’s not supposed to come in this form, at this age. The death of any bright young life always hits us harder. We think of the lost potential, all that might have been, and just how darned unfair it seems.

A century ago, millions of men Tyler’s age went to their deaths in what a naïve world called “the war to end all wars.” In France, one in every four men between 18 and 34 was killed. Then, 20 years later, it happened again. It’s hard for us today to imagine the horror and heartbreak of such events.

But at least when a young soldier dies, those left behind can tell themselves that there was a reason. A cause served. A nation protected. A value in exchange for their terrible loss. An answer to the haunting question “Why?”

When death comes as it did to our friend Tyler, an answer sometimes doesn’t present itself.  We’re just left wondering, and frustrated, and empty in our grief.

But we’re not in that position tonight. Tyler Trent answered the “Why?” question for us, over and over. His courage, and faith, and even cheerfulness amid such bad luck set an example none of us could miss, and all of us will be better for witnessing firsthand. 

Next time you confront a big challenge, Tyler will be there to help you meet it. If you don’t think he had something to do with 49-20, ask one of our players.

Will anyone here not remember Tyler, next time a tough moment comes? That scary exam, insensitive friend, or disappointing interview ought to seem a little more bearable, with Tyler’s example in front of you. 

Just like the Ohio State win he and he alone predicted, he will never be forgotten. He’s now in the pantheon of Purdue heroes. Years from now, we’ll all be telling people, “I was at Purdue with Tyler Trent.”

Adios, Tyler.  Literally, “To God.” We know there’s an extra ration of grit in heaven tonight.


Pastor Rob Schrumpf, of Campus House, where Tyler worshipped, will offer our final reflection, and a benediction, before the Glee Club closes our ceremony with the “Purdue Hymn.”