mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Andrew Pochter, RIP


Sometimes an international event hits home. The death of Andrew Pochter, a 21 year old American college student who was stabbed to death during the protests in Alexandria, Egypt on Friday hit us hard at Via Meadia. By one of those coincidences that happen sometimes, not one but two of our staff writers, Jeremy Stern and Bryn Stole, knew Andrew and many of his friends. Jeremy and Andrew were both members of the same fraternity at Kenyon College; Bryn and Andrew were rugby teammates. At my request, Bryn and Jeremy reached out to the friends they shared with Andrew to share memories of the young man whose life was so tragically cut short last week.

I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Andrew myself, but his generous, impetuous and adventurous spirit reminds me of many of the young people I’ve met. The courage and enthusiasm that sends these young people out to engage with a world beyond anything they’ve known never ceases to amaze and inspire me. Andrew was not what most Egyptians would expect a young Jewish American to be like. He was passionately in love with the Arab language and with Arab culture, and wasn’t seeking to control it, destroy it or to subject it to any form of imperial domination. He wanted to share the life and community around him, and he wanted to make a contribution — in this case, by teaching Arab children in school. Andrew was a bridge builder, and he put his life on the line for the sake of deeper understanding between cultures, and to help lay the foundation for real peace.

To his parents and loved ones, we offer our congratulations on helping to raise and shape such a wonderful young man, and our deepest sympathy during this dark and difficult time.


Andrew Driscoll Pochter, 1992-2013

By Bryn Stole and Jeremy Stern

The State Department released a report yesterday that 21 year old Maryland native Andrew Pochter was killed amidst violent protests Friday in Alexandria, Egypt. Andrew was a rising junior at Kenyon College where he majored in religious studies, played rugby, chaired his fraternity’s philanthropic efforts, and made admirers and followers out of all who came in his path.

“Andrew Pochter was only one month older than me, but I can confidently say today that he is a hero of mine,” said Samuel Bumcrot, Pochter’s close friend at Kenyon. “He followed his passions vehemently, he loved his friends unconditionally, and he led an incredibly fulfilling life.”

The outpouring of remembrances from Pochter’s friends and colleagues do not vary much in nature. He was known to all as the student who had everything going for him. He was blessed with a charm and charisma that drew everyone to his corner; his sudden and untimely death left friends and family reeling.

“I have never met a single person who was more passionate about life on this earth, and he lived every moment of his life exactly the way that he wanted to,” said Zachary Caputo, another of Pochter’s close friends at Kenyon. “I am only one voice in a crowd of countless people that would echo these words: Andrew Pochter truly is a great man, and his spirit will continue to touch more people than I can fathom.”

A few things are clear about Andrew Pochter, even from afar and to those who never met him. He at once maintained a fierce and serious passion for life, and also a disarming sweetness and magnetism that brought all and sundry to his side. He was known as much for being a fearless rugby player and a fervent student of Arabic (he lived in Morocco for a year before college and planned to study next year in Jordan), as he was for being a tender and loyal companion who loved, among other things, cooking lavishly for all his friends.

“Sometimes I joked that even though Pochter was so energetic, he secretly had the soul of a married middle-aged man,” said Bumcrot.

A fraternity brother and rugby teammate at Kenyon, Daniel Levy, remarked: “he would always find a way to balance his competitive instincts with his passion for his studies, his friends, and his ever-present ability to bring a smile to someone’s face. His affable personality and inherent confidence were truly unique… He had a radiant gravity—guys wanted to be around him, and girls wanted to be by his side.”

Caputo put it simply: “Andrew loves making people smile, and he is really, really good at it.”

Pochter lived life with passion, joy, selflessness and a deep caring for others: teammates, friends, colleagues and strangers alike. He was a young man of unusual maturity who followed his passions with a remarkable intensity and persistence. Mike Kengmana, another rugby teammate, remembered, “There was a joke that myself and some others on the team would say about him. ‘There are trendsetters, and then there are Pochters.’ It was just a joke at the time, but it also encompassed who he was….He didn’t need a precedent to be set in order to go out and do something.” His intense focus and dedication to others set Andrew apart. Those qualities led him to Morocco, made him a standout rugby player and ultimately led him to Alexandria, Egypt.

Besides his friends, family, and colleagues, Andrew Pochter made his generation and his country proud. Fairly or not, Americans are sometimes parodied abroad as having parochial worldviews, confined to the goings-on within our borders and willfully ignorant of the people and happenings beyond. A not uncommon stereotype of a young American male is a party boy who’s never read a newspaper, learned a second language, or learned much even about his own country, let alone the world outside.

Andrew danced all over that cliché. On Friday morning, he found himself on the northern coast of Africa in one of the world’s great ancient cities. He had gone to spend his summer teaching English to Egyptian children and to improve his Arabic as an intern at AMIDEAST, a non-profit seeking to build bridges between Americans and the Arab world. When news broke of clashes between supporters and opponents of Egypt’s President, Andrew picked up his camera and went. He recognized the importance of what was happening around him, and wanted to witness and capture it himself. He knew that history was in the making, and he wanted to take part.

Andrew’s friends and family wish he hadn’t. At the protests, he was stabbed near his heart and died soon after arriving at a military hospital.

Those who knew Andrew have no doubt he could have been whatever he wanted. In his short time with us, he was an engaged, spirited, and perhaps too adventurous young man. Had he lived, he might have represented this country as a source of compassion and hope in a part of the world that needs more of both.

It’s rare that zeal, courage, integrity, affection and kindness all come together in a single human life, especially one so young and as yet undeveloped. But it’s clear that in Andrew, they did.

Bumcrot described the last time he saw his friend: “Andrew joked, laughed, and held his girlfriend while I stood there actually feeling glad to be their third wheel. Because I knew that Pochter loved her, he loved his life, and we all loved Pochter.”

Read more about Andrew, with remarks from his family, here.

Read the reflections of one of Andrew’s Arabic teachers in Morocco here.

See the commemorative Facebook page his family set up here.

Read the piece on the Arab Spring that Andrew wrote from Morocco in 2011 here.

[Image source: Facebook]

Features Icon
show comments
  • wigwag

    May his memory be for a blessing.

  • Corlyss

    Such a life ended so soon must count for something when he was loved by good people.

  • blindbluejay
    • Bob_from_Ohio

      A little harsh but much more realistic.

  • ChuckFinley

    It is sad that he is dead but I cannot help being reminded of Howard Dean’s brother who was killed by the Khmer Rouge while on an adventure vacation in Cambodia.

    It is part of the nature of young men to test themselves in dangerous situations, all the while believing that bad things might happen to somebody else but they won’t happen to me. Maybe Andrew Pochter’s friends can learn from his death that dangerous things really are dangerous and that even you can be killed or maimed.

    My advice would be that if you are going to put your life in jeopardy, make sure that you are doing it for something worthwhile and maintain enough awareness so that you know if you are putting your life in danger. But, then, I expect that young men will pay as much heed to that advice as they ever have.

    • Bob_from_Ohio

      Very sad but he was quite foolish.

      A Jewish American going to a Arab country in the midst of a revolution.

      Then voluntarily going to a riot just to take videos.

      Quite a waste.

      • ChuckFinley

        Considering that another American had been stabbed just a few weeks earlier by someone who wanted to kill an American it seems that his Jewishness was less important than his citizenship.

        Maybe if he had spent a summer vacation working in a factory he could have learned this same lesson by losing a few fingers in a punch press. From the descriptions it sounds like he was a talented young man and the world might be a better place if he could have learned a bit of caution in a less costly way.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service