Former The Dartmouth Publisher Dax Tejera ’07 ‘lived his life with complete intention,’ remembered for his drive
Tejera, a history and government major, covered major political events in the United States and overseas throughout his journalism career.
Courtesy of the Tejera family
As the 2004 presidential elections were starting to take shape, a first-year student came up to Matt Slaine ’06, who had interned for former Sen. Joe Lieberman’s presidential campaign in the summer of 2003. That student was Dax Tejera ’07, who convinced Slaine to get him an interview with the presidential candidate.
“He knew he wanted to make a name for himself at The [Dartmouth] and be impactful right away,” Slaine said. “Interviewing a presidential candidate, he thought, would [make for] a great article.”
Those who knew Tejera — a former publisher of The Dartmouth — said his time at Dartmouth propelled him into a successful journalism career. He worked at NBC and MSNBC, produced “America with Jorge Ramos” and served as executive producer of ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” which under his leadership became the number one rated newscast among adults aged 25-34. Throughout his growing career, friends recalled his dedication towards his family and loved ones.
Tejera died on Dec. 23 in New York at age 37. The cause of death was a heart attack, according to ABC. He is survived by his wife Veronica, two daughters, his parents and several members of his extended family.
Many of his friends, including Jacques Hebert ’07, recalled that Tejera was “so connected to [their] experience” at Dartmouth. Hebert recalled how inviting Tejera was towards other people, noting he loved to host events.
“He was always the center of the party and would love to host parties and have people over and have just all kinds of people,” Hebert said. “I met so many people through him because he would have this open door policy, [where] people would come in… his freshman year dorm was always the gathering place.”
Hebert and Tejera bonded over their initial unfamiliarity with New England — Hebert is from New Orleans, while Tejera was from Miami. According to Hebert, Tejera supported him through hardships during college, including when a family member passed away and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“Dax and his family were there for me and just supported me so much in that moment, but also in the moments after, when I had to return to campus after everything, and he was there and helped me get through,” Hebert said. “I don’t think I would have been able to get through Dartmouth without him and his support.”
Matt Ailey ’09, a close friend of Tejera’s, recalled his passion for journalism and care towards his friends, which came from his ability to “put 100% of himself into what he did.”
“He lived his life with complete intention,” Ailey said. “He was a very serious, but very fun person who did a lot of things for other people. Everything he did, he did it with passion.”
Similarly, Slaine recalled how much effort Tejera put in all aspects of his college life, noting that Tejera was “as engaged in the social part of college as he was in every other part.”
“He took work very seriously, took his extracurriculars very seriously, took school work seriously, but he also took his friendships really seriously,” Slaine said. “... It was almost like Dax put 100% into everything… everything was done the right way or not done at all.”
Many of Tejera’s friends, such as Dave Zubricki ’07, noted his habit of dressing in formal attire, which made him stand out.
“He was always dressed really well, especially for a freshman at Dartmouth,” Zubricki said “He wore slacks, a freshly dried clean shirt and a jacket, very much more dressed up than the rest of us… just walking around campus, he stood out because he did have that presence.”
According to Ailey, Tejera’s style of dress was fueled by his efforts to present himself seriously.
“[People say], ‘he was always well dressed’… he was always prepared. Anyone would have taken him seriously because he was putting time and effort into preparing for things and didn’t want to be dismissed for any appearance reason,” Ailey said. “He expected people to take him seriously because he should have been taken seriously.”
During his time as an undergraduate student, Tejera was a history and government double major, according to Zubricki, who took classes with him. Zubricki noted that Tejera often asked questions in class, went to office hours and talked to professors outside of class. In particular, one of Tejera’s favorite professors was history professor Marysa Navarro-Aranguren, according to Hebert.
On campus, Tejera was often seen at his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, where he was a member of the executive board, Ailey said. Though Tejera was often busy, Zubricki recalled that he was a regular at Canoe Club, a Hanover restaurant that closed in 2018. In addition, Tejera attended St. Thomas Episcopal Church, according to Hebert.
Tejera served as the Publisher of The Dartmouth’s 163rd Directorate from 2006 to 2007, which was the first time since 1993 that the publisher and editor-in-chief were separate positions. According to Ailey, who was then a member of The Dartmouth’s business staff, Tejera was able to produce “record profitability,” noting that he was respected by the Valley News. Tejera joined The Dartmouth’s Board of Proprietors in 2018.
The Dartmouth Board of Proprietors member Susan Matthews ’11 wrote in an email statement that Tejera’s position on the board was “reassuring,” noting that Tejera “pushed the students to be the strongest journalists and stewards of [The Dartmouth] as they possibly could.”
The Dartmouth publisher Amy Park ’23 wrote in an email statement that it was “abundantly clear that [Tejera] loved The Dartmouth.” She added that Tejera was “fiercely committed” to supporting student journalism and was always willing to provide advice and feedback for students.
“I will always remember and be thankful for his words of encouragement and support throughout my own time as Publisher,” Park wrote. “I hope to work with the community at The Dartmouth to continue his legacy of using journalism to support people and tell their stories.”
According to Slaine, Tejera knew his path “from day one” and would watch NBC’s “Nightly News” and wear an NBC Peacock hat “all the time.” Slaine added that his passion for journalism led him to take a “bottom of the totem pole” job at NBC over a high-paying job on Wall Street.
As a journalist, Tejera traveled all over the world, including Hong Kong, Havana and Rwanda, among other places. Some of Tejera’s notable assignments include covering the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 presidential election and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. His most recent assignments included coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s death in Britain and traveling to Ukraine with ABC reporter Martha Raddaz.
As Tejera’s career grew, Ailey recalled his “loyalty” towards his close friends, noting that “he would do anything” for family and friends. In particular, Slaine recalled a situation in which a friend from college who was couchsurfing reached out to Dax, who offered his apartment.
“Dax [gave him] his address, met him at the door with a bottle of Johnnie Walker and sat him down and said, ‘Let’s talk’ and let him stay there for a few weeks until he got his feet under him and was able to find a permanent place to live,” Slaine said. “Dax never complained, never tried to kick him out — his place was your place. What mattered to him was connecting with people and being there in times of need.”
According to Zubricki, Tejera was a “loving person” who credited his family as the motivation behind his drive and success.
“The reason he was so successful was and the reason he was so driven, it wasn’t for himself — it’s not like he wanted his name to be out there,” Zubricki said. “I think he really loved his parents and his family, and he wanted to make them proud. He loved his kids, and his wife, and he wanted to fight for them and [for] them live a great life and he loved his friends and wanted to be able to share great experiences [with them].”
A church service was held for Tejera on Jan. 7 at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Coral Gables, Florida and a memorial service was held on Jan. 13 at St. Thomas Church in Manhattan.