Out of Tragedy, a Bright Spot for Future Students
“Impressive.” “Humble.” “Creative.” “Innovative.” “Visionary.” “Exceptionally kind and thoughtful.” This is how family and professors describe Evan Armstrong North (G’09), a doctoral candidate in history at Georgetown, who died suddenly of cardiac arrest in April at age 28.
In his memory, his mother, Diane Tarantino North, has made a generous bequest to the Department of History to support students who follow in her son’s footsteps at Georgetown. The gift is also an acknowledgement of his family’s connection to his alma mater, which includes his uncle Arthur E. Tarantino, M.D. (G’79, M’83); cousin David A. Tarantino, Jr., M.D. (M’92); cousin Helen Burton (C’11); cousin George Burton (C’13); and cousin Gregory Burton, manager of contracted services at the university.
“A Renaissance Man”
Evan North was born in Northern California but split his early years between the West Coast and Maryland. Even as a preschooler, he was compelled by history. “One of Evan’s first interests was lighthouses; when he was 5 years old, we traveled the coast of Maine, talking with local lighthouse keepers,” says his mother.
After graduating cum laude from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in history, he chose Georgetown to pursue a degree in the program that goes by the acronym MAGIC (for Master of Arts in global, international and comparative history) because of its stellar faculty, location and his family connections. David Painter, founding director of the program, says it didn’t take long before the history department noticed his talent and encouraged him to follow the Ph.D. track. After receiving a full fellowship, Evan North began working on a doctoral dissertation on the Federal Reserve and helped other students as a teaching assistant.
Research and teaching were only two of his passions. He was an outdoorsman, athlete, artist, singer and actor who studied history, politics, economics, science, technology, philosophy and religion. “Evan’s exceptional nature rested in his deep appreciation for all knowledge, his ability to interrelate ideas from numerous disciplines, his dedication to Georgetown, his concern about the nation's problems and his kindness and humility,” says Diane North. “Evan was a Renaissance man.”
During his eulogy, Professor Joseph McCartin recalled the day he learned that Evan North, in his spare time, had designed a website on the astronomer Johannes Kepler. The website features elegantly designed graphics and explains Kepler’s discoveries. “In addition to all of his other activities and research, Evan was also, quite literally, exploring the universe,” says McCartin. “He never even put his name on the website.”
A Legacy to Benefit Discovery
Painter says that Evan North’s death was a huge shock and a major loss to the profession. “He was going to be one of our stars,” Painter says. Aviel Roshwald, chair and professor of history at Georgetown, adds, “Evan showed tremendous promise, and while it seems unreal that his life was cut short, the Evan Armstrong North Graduate Research Award seems like a fitting way to honor Evan’s memory.”
Diane North’s bequest will be designated to a graduate of the MAGIC program who has been admitted to the Ph.D. program in history. Roshwald says the award will provide meaningful resources for doctoral students, who frequently need to travel to conduct archival research. “We are very moved by Dr. North’s gift,” he says.
For Diane North, the fund will be a direct legacy of her son’s adventurous spirit. “I hope students who benefit will be encouraged to keep asking questions, to do research with the same sense of excitement and wonder that Evan experienced,” she says.