Andrew D. Pochter lost his life in the Middle East while on a quest for knowledge and understanding.
Andrew, 21-years-old and anticipating his junior year at Kenyon, was killed in mob violence in Alexandria, Egypt, on Friday, June 28. His family, mentors, and friends described him as a fun-loving, active student of the world with a facility for foreign languages. He rooted for the underdog, was a host at the College radio station, and broke his nose playing rugby.
"He was one of the rare kids who lived what he believed," said Marc Bragin, Hillel director and Jewish chaplain at Kenyon. "His belief was that everyone should be included, everyone had a voice, and no one should be left out because what they think is different than what others think."
Andrew of Chevy Chase, Md., was a religious studies major. Raised a Christian, he was reared in a home with both Christian and Jewish parents, said his mother, Elizabeth Pochter, and he had become interested in his Jewish heritage. He was co-manager of Hillel House, where he had lived during his sophomore year. Andrew was also a member of the Middle East Student Association (MESA).
"Andrew was interested in the whole Jewish side and the whole Palestinian side," his mother said. His activity in the Middle East Student Association was very important to him, she added.
He was a student of Arabic and had spent a gap year in Morocco after graduating from the Blue Ridge School in St. George, Va., and before arriving at Kenyon. "He became totally enchanted with Morocco," she said. "He had his heart set on learning the different Arabic dialects."
The trip to Morocco was a product of a National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The program aims to instill a love of foreign languages and culture in order to foster international engagement. The Arabic program in Morocco involved a home stay, community service and language immersion. Andrew felt comfortable speaking Arabic and French and had a grasp of Spanish and Italian.
He went to Egypt this year after completing his second year at Kenyon as an intern for AMIDEAST, an American non-profit organization engaged in international education, training and development activities in the Middle East and North Africa. While there, he had lived in an Egyptian home and taught English to seven- and eight-year-old Egyptian children.
Andrew had planned to spend the spring semester of the 2013-14 academic year studying in Amman, Jordan, as part of the AMIDEAST Education Abroad Program, where he intended to attain conversational fluency in Arabic and grasp a better understanding of the political and religious dynamics of the Middle East.
In an essay as part of his application for the study-abroad program in Jordan, Andrew discussed his fascination with other cultures and languages. And he reflected on his hopes to develop "life-long ties ... with Arab-speaking friends."
Kenyon Provost Nayef H. Samhat, who becomes president of Wofford College on July 1, knew Andrew as a student in his independent study course on the politics of the Middle East. "He was a thoughtful and soft-spoken young man with a deep concern about the region and its transformation," Samhat said. "He had great intellectual curiosity, and his desire to better the Middle East clearly shaped his vision of what his life might be and where it might take him."
Sean M. Decatur, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oberlin College who becomes the president of Kenyon on July 1, and Barry F. Schwartz '70, chairman of the Kenyon College Board of Trustees, have both communicated with the Pochter family. "Andrew's death is a very sad and tragic loss," Decatur said. "He was an important part of the lives of many faculty and students, and he had a tremendous impact on the Kenyon community. His work and activities this summer - teaching English to Egyptian youth while deepening his own understanding of the Arabic language and Egyptian culture - are emblematic of the engagement with learning and the world to which we all aspire."
Dean of Students Henry P. Toutain said a memorial service for Andrew will be held in the fall. He described Andrew as "an engaged and values-driven student who greatly enriched our community and reached out beyond it consistent with his passionate commitment to peace."
Andrew enjoyed his time at Kenyon, his mother said. "From the moment Andrew walked on the campus, he just loved it," she said.
"He was really fun-loving and sweet, a great friend," his mother said. "He was very attentive to his friends and to his family. And he had so many passionate interests. Andrew was a great cook and loved spending time in the kitchen, cooking with others."
While taking a Kenyon course on Middle Eastern politics, he read poems about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to his girlfriend, Clara Fischman '13. "The class wasn't just about some detached war to him, but a struggle that he passionately wanted to resolve," she said. "Andrew was a person who didn't see the world as separate nations, but a collection of vibrant cultures."
Former MESA president Tess Waggoner '13 of Maumee, Ohio, said, "He was dedicated very much to making people understand each other. He was a bridge-builder."
Andrew was the philanthropy chair for his fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi. Fraternity brother Andrew Tint '13 of New Providence, N.J., said Andrew helped raise money for victims of domestic violence. "Andrew was someone who really cared," Tint said. "He cared about each person. He would go out of his way to talk to you. He was one of those few genuinely nice people."
Kenyon President S. Georgia Nugent lamented the loss of a student who had touched so many lives at Kenyon.
"It is always a tragedy for a young person to lose his or her life prematurely," she said. "Andrew's death is especially troubling, resulting as it did from the political violence that plagues our world today. As I step down from the presidency of the College tomorrow, I can only hope that Andrew's loss will lead members of the Kenyon community to re-dedicate themselves to seeking and fostering peace in whatever ways they can."
In addition to his mother, Andrew is survived by his father, Theodore Pochter, and sister, Emily Pochter.
A video link to a slam poem created by Andrew Pochter '15 and Sarah Gold '14 as a final project for the Kenyon seminar Yearning for Zion: