College senior Tom Hartford, 22, was taken off life support at 1 a.m. Wednesday, after being in a coma for the past two weeks.
Hartford’s father, also named Tom Hartford, said that he got a call around 3 a.m. on Jan. 10 from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. His son had been found outside the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter house on 40th and Walnut streets with multiple fractures to his skull and face, according to his father.
There was a rush party at the fraternity that night, and Hartford had stayed behind after the event was over.
Hartford was a former member of Penn’s SigEp chapter, according to a statement from Brian Warren Jr., SigEp’s executive director. “While he was no longer affiliated with the chapter, he remained close with many of the undergraduate members.” Penn’s SigEp chapter deferred comment to the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, who deferred comment to University Communications.
Later that night, Hartford was found lying in a pool of blood on concrete outside the house. An ambulance brought him to HUP. According to his father, by then he had severe brain trauma. He added that the doctor told him that his son’s injuries may have been from an approximately 15 to 20 feet fall.
Hartford added that detectives think he could have fallen from a window or was climbing up to a window because he was locked out of the house.
However, Hartford’s father said nobody knows what exactly happened, and that police and detectives are still investigating the matter.
“The Penn Police have been unbelievably helpful,” he said.
The Division of Public Safety deferred comment to University Communications.
Since that night, Hartford had been in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit at HUP. “The first week, he was doing pretty well,” his father said. However, Hartford’s health took a turn for the worse around Monday.
“We all thought he was getting better and then he had a massive stroke,” his father said.
Hartford said that doctors did not think his son would survive the stroke. “[And] if he did live, he probably would not come out of a coma. He would never wake up,” he added.
“We are deeply saddened by Thomas’s tragic death, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this very difficult time,” the University said in an official statement released Wednesday.
Students remember Hartford as a bright and energetic figure on campus.
College junior Mariah Deters, who met Hartford her freshman year, said she was in “absolute shock” when she heard the news Wednesday.
“He’s an incredibly energetic and positive person and he was an extremely devoted member of [SigEp],” she said. “He was really, really involved and … really put in a lot to the brotherhood.”
2012 Wharton and Engineering graduate Naveen Kasthuri worked with Hartford for about a year and a half in the Riepe College House computer lab.
Hartford, who was an Information Technology advisor, was great with customers, Kasthuri said.
“If there’s something I learned while working with Tom, it was his infectious positive attitude. It was refreshing and instantly put you at ease,” he said in an email. “Because of this, a few students refused IT assistance unless it was Tom providing them with the help. Who has ever heard of customer support loyalty?”
Wharton sophomore Ally Del Canal, who was close with Hartford, described him as “full of life.”
“He was one of those guys who doesn’t know a stranger,” she said. “Everybody around him always had a great time.”
Hartford was pursuing a degree in cognitive neuroscience. He is survived by two sisters and a brother.
There will be a viewing at Clark Funeral Home in Stroudsburg, Pa. on Friday and services at Reeders United Methodist Church on Saturday.
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Editor’s note: A previous version of this story published Wednesday afternoon reported Hartford was a brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon. However, a statement from Sigma Phi Epsilon’s executive director Brian Warren Jr. acquired later confirmed he was no longer officially affiliated with the chapter.
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