The beginning of Tyler Trent’s impact on campus started, perhaps, with the University’s biggest fundraising event of the year, the Purdue University Dance Marathon.
“It was very emotional for me, because … I met Tyler the first day of Day of Miracles,” said Jackie Ham, PUDM’s public relations online strategy chair.
Ham met Trent in 2017 during one of the several fundraising events held by PUDM throughout the year, Day of Miracles. She went on to become of of his closest friends.
“He was like, ‘Yeah my name’s Tyler, I’m glad you’re in PUDM, all that stuff.’ And I was like yeah, I’m actually going to go on a tour of Riley Hospital in a couple weeks,” Ham said. “And he was like, ‘Oh, I can give you a tour myself.’”
Their friendship grew over time, both through their involvement in PUDM and by the fact that Ham’s boyfriend lived on the same floor in Tarkington Residence Hall as Trent.
“Literally probably like, five-ish doors down,” Ham explained. “I always made the joke that I could hear Tyler coming before I saw him because he would have a crutch and so I’d hear him coming, and I would just yell his name down the hall whenever I wanted to talk to him.”
Ham’s conversations with Trent weren’t limited to PUDM — the two often talked about the current state of Purdue Athletics. She said Trent’s love for any Boilermaker team was clear through his black-and-gold apparel and temperament after a particularly intense game.
“He would come in and just be decked out in his Purdue gear,” Ham said, “wearing his striped overalls with his Purdue beanie. You could tell that he was just the biggest fan.
“If Purdue lost in basketball, we would make the joke that, ‘Don’t go talk to Tyler. Tyler needs his alone time in the room to steam off.’ And then when he was ready he would come out and then we would talk about the loss, and he would just say a couple words and then go back in. … You could almost see the steam coming out of his ears.”
Trent also met people through the classes he attended, such as fellow PUDM member Nicole Martin, who works as special events chair for the organization. Martin and Trent shared a management class together, and often talked and shared funny photos of their professor through Snapchat. Eventually, they reached a 100-day snap streak, according to Martin.
One of her more memorable interactions with Trent was when he asked her to cut his hair post-chemotherapy, Martin said.
“There was one day that he came over to my house … to cut his hair, because it was starting to grow out after chemo and everything,” Martin said. “And he was tired of having it long. So I got to cut his hair. And that was a really funny experience.
“I’ve never cut anyone’s hair before. It was fun, it was a little bit awkward because I think that was the first time that we’d actually like met in person, really. … But my motto was, his hair was shorter than it was when he first got to my house, so I counted it as a success, a successful haircut.”
Martin interacted with Trent mostly outside of PUDM. They grew close over social media and as study partners. His battle with cancer didn’t go unnoticed by Martin, however, and she recognizes the long-lasting legacy Trent will have on campus for years to come.
“I think he’s just a great example of a fighter and someone who doesn’t give up,” Martin said. “He really inspires people. If you want something, go for it — nothing’s impossible — and just, to keep doing things for others and to help others.
"That really is just kind of like him as a person and I know that it will stay with this campus for a long time.”