Tate Ramsden ’17 remembered for compassion

by Katie Rafter | 1/3/16 10:22pm

Tate Ramsden ’17 always showed up to the pool with a smile on his face, Doug Wharam recalls. His former coach at the Nashville Aquatic Center, Wharam described Ramsden as an amazing and versatile athlete whose kindness and compassion was always present.

Ramsden passed away on Dec. 27 in Sarasota, Fl. while swimming on vacation with his family. He was 21. The Associated Press reported that he may have been attempting to swim four laps across a pool without coming up for air. He was pronounced dead after lifeguards and emergency medical personnel were unable to revive him. An autopsy is pending to determine the cause of death, the AP reported.

A dedicated swimmer and talented student who swam for the College’s varsity team, friends and family also recalled his authentic kindness and compassion.

“Tate had a way of connecting with people to ensure that their day was just a little bit better,” Wharam said. “I heard stories from our younger athletes this week about Tate that I never knew - that he stayed late to make sure a parent showed up or struck up a conversation with a new athlete on the deck or in the weight room who looked like they needed a friendly face.”

Jenn Verser, Ramsden’s former Dartmouth swimming and diving coach, said that she knew Ramsden was special when she met him during his first visit to the College, and that she knew immediately he was an athlete that she wanted to coach.

“His concern for others above himself was constantly apparent and was one of the many attributes that made Tate an amazing influence and teammate,” Verser said.

Dartmouth head coach of swimming Jim Wilson said Ramsden, who swam butterfly, the individual medley and some freestyle for the College, was a dedicated member of the team, as well as a talented and promising student. Wilson recalled how Ramsden flew from Puerto Rico during the team’s training trip in December for an interview with Morgan Stanley.

“He was always willing to help anyone on the team, and always prepared with a good sense of humor,” Wilson said.

Ramsden started swimming when he was one year old, following in the footsteps of his two older siblings, one of whom, Ashley, swam for Columbia University.

“He grew up around the pool,” his mother Amy Ramsden said.

Ramsden was recruited to Dartmouth for swimming and his mother said he was drawn to the College because of how friendly the people were when he visited. She recalled how proud he was when he scored points for Dartmouth at the Ivy League meet last year.

Timo Vaimann ’17, a member of the swim team, said the juniors on the team felt like a family away from home and Ramsden was a big part of that family.

Vaimann said that while swimming played a large role in Ramsden’s life, Ramsden recently told him that he treated swimming “like a sport, nothing more, and nothing less.”

“I think this symbolizes how he always placed his friends, teammates, and family first, took his academics very seriously, and took swimming for what it was — a sport,” Vaimann said.

Joseph Bernstein ’17, a member of the Dartmouth swimming and diving team, said he met Ramsden at the end of his freshman fall, when they sat next to each other for the seven hour drive to Princeton University for a meet. He and Ramsden would argue about anything, he said, ranging from getting the best seat at their table in the Class of 1953 Commons or the mini van while traveling with their team to Supreme Court cases — debates which Ramsden would normally win.

“He brought out the best in people, which very few people can do and which I was always impressed by,” Bernstein said.

Friends and family spoke of Ramsden’s adventurous nature, as well as his caring personality.

Amy Ramsden said she and her son got their motorcycle licenses together in 2014.

“It was something he always wanted to do,” she said, adding that Ramsden then used his life savings to buy a motorcycle in Hanover over his sophomore summer.

He would drive around New Hampshire on his motorcycle and send his family photographs of it in the beautiful locations he visited, she said.

Ramsden was also an organ donor, said his mother, which she said spoke to how selfless he was as a person.

“He was just a really unselfish kid,” she said, adding that Ramsden often encouraged other people to consider being donors too.

His father Bruce Ramsden said that this past holiday season was the first that the family had spent together since Ramsden’s older brother had been of the country for a few years in Taiwan. This time together with family was important to Ramsden.

“Family was important to him and friendships, and I know that sounds clichéd, but it’s true,” Bruce Ramsden said.

His father added that Ramsden developed a number of close friendships growing up and during his time at the College.

“I considered Tate to be my best friend, but I think so did a lot of people on campus and I think that speaks to what kind of person he was, because he always put his friends and family first,” Vaimann said.

Reilly Johnson ’16, who dated Ramsden for a year, said Ramsden had a “hysterical sense of humor,” which he demonstrated from the first moment that they met.

When Johnson and Ramsden were working in different cities, D.C. and New York, they made sure to visit each other every weekend, Johnson said.

She recalled driving up to Dartmouth with Ramsden for Green Key weekend in the spring. She said that he noticed how tired she was and told her to take a nap. When she woke up, she realized he had surprised her with her favorite meal from the Hop.

“That’s just the kind of guy that he was,” Johnson said. “He would have gone out of his way for anyone.”

Johnson said Ramsden thought it was really important for her to get to know his family and friends from home.

“Tate loved his family and his friends so much,” she said. “He had a glow around him when he would tell stories about those he loved.”

Adam Cornett, who knew Ramdsen since they were both ten years old, grew up swimming with Ramsden and both attended Montgomery Bell Academy. Ramsden graduated in 2013, where he was the captain of the swim team.

Cornett said Ramsden was a very loyal friend, who he could trust with anything.

He said that one of his favorite things to do with Ramsden was to go boating and relax on the water.

Cornett remembered one occasion when a storm picked up out of nowhere with huge waves and winds and he thought they would lose the boat.

“I was really scared and I looked back at Tate and he’s just laughing because he was just fearless and up for adventures,” Cornett said.

He described another time when they went white river rafting. Their raft flipped and Cornett said Ramsden’s first instinct was to help Cornett’s mother, which he said showed how much Ramsden cared about his family and friends.

Johnson shared a letter that Ramsden wrote to her over his sophomore summer, in which he described the qualities that he values in a person.

“My grandfather told me that one’s reputation, aside from family, is the most important thing one has,” Ramsden wrote. “If you don’t have a good reputation, then you haven’t done your job. It doesn’t matter what your job was as long as you can say, ‘He’s an honest guy. I never heard anyone say anything bad about him.’ That’s a good thing to be known for.”

At the end of the letter, Ramsden apologized for being bad at giving gifts and said he was working on it, Johnson said.

“I think the biggest thing that he got wrong in the letter is that he was not bad at giving gifts.” she said. “He gave me the best gift that anyone could have given me, and it was the phenomenal memories and the opportunity to get to know the people who loved and cared about him.”

A memorial was held at First Presbyterian Church in Nashville on Saturday, Jan. 2.