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Owen Dean Opens Up On The Tragic Death Of An MBA Student

Photo of the Owen study group in Israel taken shortly before the attack

Photo of the Owen study group in Israel taken shortly before the attack


The dean described the young man as  “the quintessential Owen student.” “We focus on leadership without egos and that fit Taylor perfectly,” says a clearly somber Johnson. “Our Assistant Dean of Corporate Partnerships (Read McNamara) quickly said it best. Taylor was the real deal and the son many of us would want to have. He is marked not by a loud self-promotion but a lifetime of achievement.”

When Johnson did speak in classes, Johnson says, it was with “significant insight and impact,” and faculty had spoken multiple times about their “deep respect for his contributions.” Force considered Owen on the recommendation of his sister and according to one of his close friends, chose Vanderbilt’s Nashville campus over the University of Texas at Austin because of what he perceived was the “vibrancy” of the community.

At a memorial service at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, before Force’s body was flown home, a letter written by his sister, Kristen, was read aloud on behalf of his family. “Please convey our deepest appreciation to the Israeli people and government who have been so compassionate and thoughtful during the worst moment of our lives,” she wrote. “Taylor was our world and our lives are forever changed, but knowing Israel mourns with us is comforting.”


Force was described by friends in highly flattering terms. Barrett Caldwell, in an interview with The Tennessean, said, “It was never about him. He pulled back from that idea of being braggadocio or beating his chest. You go into that knowing that you’re going to be called to lead and called to serve.”

Another friend and former classmate, David Simpkins, shared similar sentiments in a blog post for the Times of Israel. “He laughed and smiled a lot in the classes at West Point,” Simpkins wrote in the post. “He sat behind me, next to me, or across from me during our first two years at the United States’ premier institution. He was very mild-mannered, sharp, and professional. I couldn’t think of someone who was more of a model of ‘America’s finest’ than him. He was handsome, articulate, brilliant, and just so GOOD. I can’t think of a moment where he wasn’t exuding an aura of pure positive energy. He was as honest and heartfelt as they come, but now he’s dead.

Owen students are currently on spring break and will be returning next week for classes.  The university today (March 14) announced that it will hold a memorial service for Force on March 18th at 4 p.m. on campus at Benton Chapel. The service is closed to the public. Because of limited seating in the chapel, priority will be given to members of the Owen School community and those who knew Force well. Additional guests will be seated in the chapel as space is available. For others wishing to share in the remembrance, the service will be streamed live at the Central Library, which is next door to the chapel, and the Schulman Center for Jewish Life.


Vanderbilt students also have been are invited to gather and share their grief Thursday, March 17, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life.

Force’s family has established a fund to help pay for his funeral in Lubbock.

“The world lost a wonderful man on Tuesday,” the fund reads. “Taylor was loved and respected by everyone who was fortunate to have known him. His permanent smile, positive spirit, and kindness were complemented with his honor, integrity, and dedication to serving others. He will be forever missed by his family and friends.”