Northwestern community gathers to remember Avantika Khatri


Sylvana Caruso/The Daily Northwestern

Stephanie Kuyah (left) and Maroua Sallami share stories about Weinberg junior Avantika Khatri at a memorial Thursday afternoon. Khatri died Monday afternoon in her off-campus residence.

Tyler Pager, Campus Editor

Avantika Khatri wanted new students to know she was looking out for them.

When she arrived at Northwestern before the start of her sophomore year, she began meeting them and taking notes on her phone, detailing important information they shared with her. That way, she could pick up the conversations the next time they met. She wanted to establish relationships with new students so they knew she was someone they could talk to whenever they had a problem.

Family and friends highlighted the Weinberg junior’s selflessness and care for others at a memorial Thursday afternoon. Nearly 150 students joined Khatri’s family at The Rock to share stories and celebrate her life. Khatri, 21, died Monday afternoon in her off-campus apartment. There were no signs of foul play, and the cause of her death is still pending toxicology results, Evanston police Cmdr. Joseph Dugan said.

Naresh Khatri spoke of his daughter’s idealism and passion for social justice issues. He shared some of his favorite memories with her, including their trips to see “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Lego Movie.” A professor, he said the slogan “everything is awesome” from “The Lego Movie” is the new way he greets his students.

“We need more people who are idealistic, who have the courage to do the right things,” he said. “I will carry those things with me. I am really now determined to keep her alive. I would want to do something awesome in her memory.”

Her goal to make a difference and help others should serve as lessons for the rest of the NU community, said Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs.

“Today we thank Avantika for the legacy she has left, for the positive impact she had on her classmates, her friends and certainly the faculty,” she said. “She was indeed the consummate Wildcat, striving for excellence, being ever-curious, showing compassion, raising the spirits of her friends and wanting to make a difference in this world.”

Khatri’s friends emphasized her passion for adventure and her humor, qualities they said they will miss. They described her love for attending campus speakers and athletic events and how she was always available whenever someone needed her.

Weinberg junior Maroua Sallami roomed with Khatri last year in Shepard Residential College. She said they attended the Jay Sean concert on campus together two weeks ago.

“She was just so happy and smiling, and she was showing me her new dance moves,” Sallami said.

Sallami said she is still in shock and has yet to process Khatri’s death.

Another friend recounted how Khatri taught him the importance of supporting others. Weinberg senior Daniel Cheruiyot described a time when they worked on a class project together and she baked cookies for the group and gave him all the leftovers after he jokingly mentioned he didn’t know what he was going to eat for breakfast.

“Ava always made sure everyone else was comfortable, and in retrospect I feel kind of selfish not to be able to reciprocate this,” Cheruiyot said. “I would like to urge everyone in this community to remember to support each other … because that’s what Ava did every day of her life.”

Khatri’s family also thanked the university community for its love and support over the past few days. Aaditya Khatri, her older brother, said he was amazed at his sister’s friends.

“In the last two days, I’ve really put my hand on the pulse of this campus and it’s really, really impressive,” he said. “I can’t express in words at how amazed I am at the student body and the people that you have around here. Cherish each other and support each other and you will all do phenomenal things.”

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Twitter: @tylerpager