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Xeno Taylor-Fontana ’11

A picture of Xeno Taylor-Fontana

Xeno Taylor-Fontana ’11, February 1, 2011, at the summit of Sherman Peak in the Sierra Nevada of California. Xeno was so eager to get to Reed that he didn't even wait his high school graduation ceremony, but hopped on a bicycle and pedaled solo 3,800 miles all the way from Trumansburg, New York, to Portland, hauling 150 pounds of gear. He thrived at Reed, developing a strong interest in political philosophy and theories of authority. Following his junior year, he took a leave of absence and went on an epic bike trip with Alex Ragus ’11 and Marie Perez ’12 from Portland to Quito, Ecuador. Xeno's father, philosopher Richard Taylor, died when Xeno was 16, and Xeno adopted his father's admiration for stoic philosophy. “He had very high, exacting, and uncompromising standards for himself and for every aspect of his life,” writes his mother, Kim Fontana. “He worked hard physically and intellectually and he wanted to be the best, not to be better than others—he cared nothing for that—but because he thought it was important to his personal integrity, his purpose, his responsibility, what one does. Anything he valued, he valued absolutely. He was also fundamentally a romantic. He believed in transcendent beauty, and he believed it was achievable in this life. In fact, it was hard for him, and ultimately intolerable, I believe, for things to be less than beautiful and perfect.” Late in January, Xeno disappeared from campus, drove to the Sierra Nevada of southern California, abandoned his car, hiked several miles through deep snow to the summit of Sherman Peak, and took his own life. In a letter to his friends, his mother wrote: “I would ask each of you to care for each other, not just now, as you grieve together for your friend, but as you go through your lives. Gentleness in your treatment of each other and of yourselves is wisdom. We are all imperfect, foolish, and sometimes vain. Still, we are what we have to offer each other. Please give of yourselves to each other freely and with kindness. Try to remember Xeno with fondness and love. That's all we can do now.” Survivors include his mother, Kim Fontana; “vice” mother, Calista Smith; his brother, Todd Taylor; grandparents; and many friends at Reed.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2011

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