For his family and friends, Drew Everson’s possessions embodied his unique characteristics.
His designer jeans and cardigans represented his class, they said at Wednesday’s memorial service. His “full and colorful” Google calendar exemplified his involvement on campus, his favorite bottle of scotch whiskey stood for both his simplicity and passion and his Viking hat was emblematic of his love for Duke basketball.
It was with a “wickedly funny sense of humor” and a “brilliant curiosity” that Everson made his mark on the Duke community, said those who knew him.
“Is there anybody at Duke who did not know him?” President Richard Brodhead asked at the Oct. 28 service honoring Everson’s life, which was held at the Duke Chapel.
The teary-eyed mass of friends, fraternity brothers, family members and professors that packed the Chapel signaled that Drew’s impact was widespread. Some have estimated that as many as 1,200 people attended the memorial service.
Although Everson’s death has provoked a somber atmosphere on campus, those closest to him are taking this time to commemorate his lasting legacy.
“You changed my world, you changed Duke’s world and you changed the world,” said senior Matt Byrne at the service.
Everson, a 21-year-old senior, passed away the night of Oct. 23, after an accidental fall last week left him with two collapsed lungs and severe head trauma. An employee found Everson unconscious around 11:30 a.m. Oct. 22, at which point he was transported to the Duke University Emergency Department. Everson was in an induced coma until the time of his death.
Passion, intellect and wit
From toting a Play-Doh key chain for three years to his wide range of academic interests, Everson’s friends and professors described him as a dynamic person.
“The dude was incredibly smart,” senior Pat Rutter, who was Everson’s roommate for the last two years, said in an interview. “It was hard to argue against him, especially when he was so passionate about something.”
A political science major who also planned to receive a markets and management certificate, Everson explored other fields as well—even particle physics. He once took “Translating Science” with Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education. Nowicki said he has used Everson as an example of a model student since then because of his warm personality and performance in the classroom.
“He could tell you that he thought you were completely wrong and make you feel good about it,” Nowicki said at the memorial.
Everson’s passion for debate extended outside of the classroom. A member of Duke Debate, Everson also served as an extemporaneous speaking coach for the East Chapel Hill High School Speech and Debate Team.
“He mentors [the students] as a coach, he mentors them as a person. They want to be Drew, be like Drew or become something like Drew,” the high school’s debate coach William Warren said in an interview, adding that the team has slightly changed its schedule to honor Everson.
And although Everson was involved in many facets of the University, his friends said his interests were genuine.
“He gave himself completely to the things he loved,” senior Lauren Haigler said at the memorial. “There is hope in this tragedy. Through it we can move on and do those amazing things he would have done.”
At the time of his death, Everson was deciding between job offers. He interned with Goldman Sachs this summer, and many said Everson was heading toward a career in finance.
“If any student here had a promise, it was Drew,” Brodhead said.
Despite his academic accomplishments—he maintained a 3.8 GPA—Everson “had an incredible ability to keep things in perspective,” senior Zach Fuller said at the service.
Everson published a series of columns titled “Why so serious?” for The Chronicle in 2008-2009 in which he expressed his desire to embrace his experiences.
“It’s fun to love life,” Everson wrote in an Oct. 16, 2008 column. “So join me every day in celebrating whatever it is you want to celebrate.”
Although not every student knew him, many would be able to point out Everson’s notorious Viking hat in the crowd of Cameron Crazies at every home basketball game.
Everson served as a line monitor last year and was accepted to be a monitor for the 2010-2011 season. His passion for Duke basketball extended to his “hell of a record” at home games. According to Rutter, Everson only missed three home men’s basketball games in his time at Duke. The third game Everson missed was the Oct. 23 game against St. Augustine’s College, when Everson was hospitalized for his injuries.
“What Drew would bring to the table... was a communal spirit,” Austin Boehm, Trinity ’10, said in an interview. Boehm served as a line monitor with Everson last season and is a former editorial page managing editor for The Chronicle. “His level of intensity at those basketball games was out of control. K-ville was an extension of him.”
Everson even showed up to a constitutional law class still sporting his Mohawk from the UNC game the night before, Byrne said at the memorial.
A member of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, Everson was quick to become involved in the brotherhood, said Pi Kappa Phi President Jordan Stone, a junior.
“He was definitely one of the guys always at events, always at meetings,” Stone said in an interview. “He provided good constructive criticism to everything we proposed. It’s times like these that not only the fraternity realizes, but everyone realizes, how important it is to have a support system.”
Everson was also involved in the facilities and services Campus Council committee and served as the Campus Council liaison to the Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee. He also wrote sketches for the Inside Joke comedy troupe.
Friends said Everson embodied the “work hard, play hard” phrase that has come to represent Duke. At the memorial, Haigler described Everson as an “insomniac” who was “very social, involved in everything and still made As.”
To honor Everson, some of his friends gathered late Tuesday night to paint “notes of love” on the East Campus bridge. Those students sprayed beer to the sounds of Katy Perry while painting and remembered Everson’s enjoyment of Tailgate.
“I know he would have loved it,” Haigler said.
A friend’s legacy
In addition to Everson’s heavy involvement in and out of the classroom, many described him as a true friend.
Recounting memories with Everson, Haigler told the crowd at the Chapel of the time they jumped into a fountain in Indianapolis, Ind., after the men’s basketball championship in the spring and of times when Everson would hold her on his couch while she cried.
Friends also described the “goofy” Everson, a vegetarian whose only vegetables were in pasta sauce. At a previous job at Applebee’s Restaurant, Everson once spoke in a British accent for a week just for fun, friends said.
They also described him as “messy”—Everson would go weeks without cleaning his room, Rutter said.
Although his apartment no longer has all three tenants, Rutter said Everson’s legacy lives on.
“It was amazing being with someone who was not only dedicated to life but took any excuse to be happy,” he said. “That’s something that we kind of get lost at Duke. It was really refreshing to be with someone who enjoyed life for what it was.”