Students and faculty remember John McMordie ’15

Oct. 10, 2016, 2:05 a.m.
John McMordie '15. (Courtesy of the Stanford Product Realization Lab)
John McMordie ’15 died on Aug. 26 due to running accident injuries. (Courtesy of the Stanford Product Realization Lab).

Stanford students, faculty and other community members are coming together to remember John McMordie ’15 with a memorial service in his honor at 1 p.m. on Oct. 16 in Memorial Church. The service will precede a reception in the Peterson Engineering Building.

To all those who knew and loved him, McMordie was an incredibly inspirational and positive influence. McMordie died on Aug. 26 at the age of 23 from running accident injuries.

As a teaching assistant at the Product Realization Lab (PRL), tour guide, co-founder of the Stanford Jazz Consortium and freshman dorm resident assistant (RA), McMordie was involved in shaping a number of different experiences for all kinds of people on campus. Above all, he is remembered for how much genuine care he had for people and communities, all while pursuing a coterminal degree in mechanical engineering (ME).

Anshul Samar ’16 and Nicholas Cheung ’15, two of McMordie’s friends leading the memorial service planning, described McMordie as one of the most talented and caring people they had ever met.

Samar, who staffed in Trancos as the resident computer consultant (RCC) while McMordie was the RA during the 2014-2015 academic year, recalled how important McMordie was in molding the dorm’s culture. Dorm staff created a welcome video for residents to the tune of Iggy Azalea’s “I’m so Fancy,” which features McMordie rapping below.

“Throughout the year, he was really the leader of Trancos, and he could hold the entire dorm up in his hands,” Samar said, recalling McMordie’s vital role in planning large dorm events like off-campus trips, football excursions and a residential retreat, as well as in subtleties that warmed dorm culture. “As a [small] example, people always went to John for candy and chocolate. One of our residents was remembering how he would always save her favorite candy for her. He was also really excited about what made other people special and what they loved, and so organizing events like cafe nights to have people show off their talents was something he took charge of.”

McMordie started a dorm tradition that continued through the year where people would submit anonymous comments and compliments about other residents throughout the week. Staff would then read the submissions aloud at dorm meetings each Wednesday night. The tradition, Samar noted, will most likely live on to be carried out by McMordie’s former residents who have gone on to staff in dorms themselves.

Cheung’s friendship with McMordie was shaped by similar interests beginning during their freshman year.

“We pretty much went through all of Stanford together,” Cheung said. “We were both ME majors and took 16 classes together. We did everything together – all of our projects, all of our [problem] sets, really pulled each other through that.”

“Whatever he was doing – whether he was talking to someone that he just met, or doing something that he’d been doing for four years at the PRL – he was 100 percent there,” Cheung added.

McMordie was as dedicated to his academics as he was to his pursuits outside the classroom. He won the Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Scholastic Award, which is presented to the top five percent of engineering students in the senior class.

“And that’s not something he would have told us directly since he was so humble,” Anshul said. “We just found out about it because he was talking about calling his old teacher to fly in for the award ceremony. But how we looked up to John wasn’t for academics. It was how he was a pillar for communities.”

The memorial service has been planned by McMordie’s friends and organizations at Stanford including the mechanical engineering department, the PRL, the Office for Religious Life and the Graduate Life Office.

“On the surface, he seemed perfect,” Cheung said. “And the deeper you dug and the more you got to know him, he was just even more perfect.”


Editor’s note: This article has been updated since its original publication to better frame John McMordie’s role as an RA at Trancos.

Contact Susannah Meyer at smeyer7 ‘at’

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