Andrew Kuebrich was among the first students I met when I began working at Monmouth College. He was the president of his chapter of Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity, so he and I talked frequently. I appreciated his willingness to "call it like it is" as we talked about the state of the college's fraternity system overall, and his fraternity in particular.
Andrew would drop in my old, dark, cave of an office (which is now the home of the college's student programming board) and plop down on one of the too-low chairs which was just not designed for his tall frame. He'd kick his feet up on the coffee table and make himself comfortable. There was something about that office that seemed a little conspiratory, and Andrew liked to play into that.
"Let me tell you a secret, Daniel," he would say, his eyes darting back and fourth, over-conspicuously looking for a phantom eavesdropper.
"What's that, Andrew?" I would ask.
And then Andrew would make an astute observation about the students of Monmouth College, perhaps by suggesting an approach I might use to build a stronger relationship of trust with the students for whom I was responsible.
For as much pressure as Andrew endured as a fraternity president—as much as from his peers as from from the school's administration—he did a great job balancing the demands of being a student, a leader, and a good community member. He knew he couldn't force change on his fellow students, but he did have a way of influencing them in a good direction. He earned the respect of his peers.
In September, Andrew was among the student leaders who hosted the Monmouth's retreat for students who had recently joined the college's men's and women's fraternities. I remember appreciating that he recognized the importance of his work there, shaping the initial experiences of his would-be successors. Fraternities are educational organizations—contrary to popular portrayals in media—and he did his best to help the new ZBT members understand that through their actions, the fraternity would either succeed or fail in that educational enterprise.
Half way through that year, which was his senior year, Andrew's term as ZBT president wrapped up. While he might have disappeared into the student body, he promptly turned up among the students leading the college's Alternative Spring Break program.
Andrew's leadership on that trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, was not unlike his fraternity leadership. This time, though, he did not have a formal title. He simply appointed himself "chief of good times." No matter how long the day, or how uncomfortable the work, Andrew could be counted on to crack a joke at just the right moment to brighten everyone's spirits.
Then, when we'd exhaustedly return to the community center at which we were all staying, sleeping on hard floors for the week beside the indoor basketball court, he would go out onto the court and play basketball with the local Charlotte kids for hours. These children were mostly in middle school or high school, and most didn't know anyone who had gone to college, so Andrew became something of a celebrity to them. Their families were living in nearby apartments funded by the community center, and their parents were working hard to get back on their feet.
One night that week, several of the kids' fathers came over to play basketball, and Andrew joined in the game along with some of the other Monmouth students.
"The game was just an excuse, really," Andrew told us later, "so that the community center staff could help the dads talk about managing their finances."
"We'd play for a while and take a time out to talk about how to balance a checkbook or make a budget," he said. I couldn't help but think that his practical experience as a fraternity president, combined with his studies as a business major, probably helped him give a few good budgeting pointers.
Basketball wasn't Andrew's only sports interest. He also ran on Monmouth's track team and liked to ride bikes. I would see him training around campus quite frequently or playing ultimate frisbee with his fraternity brothers outside my apartment. He cheered for the Chicago Cubs and the Bears.
Two months later, on commencement day, Andrew came up to me, still wearing his graduation robe. He warmly shook my hand and thanked me. When I asked him what he was going to do with his business degree, he said he was going to pursue graduate studies and earn an MBA or go to law school.
As it turns out, he didn't do that. Before he came to Monmouth, he had worked as a camp counselor in his hometown of Plano, Illinois, providing an educational experience for children with mental disabilities. Andrew continued his interest in education, and in helping others, and took a position as an English teacher at the Hess Language School in Taipei, Taiwan. He would post photos of himself with smiling students on Facebook; they appeared to look up to him as much as those kids on the basketball court in Charlotte.Last week, however, Andrew's remarkable life was cut short. He was riding his bike from Taipei to the southernmost point of Taiwan, a nearly 300 mile trip, when was hit by a truck.
Andrew's track specialty was the 10k, and it is fitting that today his friends are gathering at his old high school in Plano for a 10-mile run/ride in his memory. His memorial service will be on Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Methodist Church, 219 North Hale, Plano, Illinois.
Officially, Andrew may have been my student, and I one of his teachers, but looking back, I suspect he taught me as much I ever taught him. However covertly as he might have done it as the "chief of good times," Andrew lived his live according to his fraternity's four principles: intellectual awareness, social responsibility, integrity, and brotherly love. Andrew thought deeply about the issues he bore witness to, engaged himself in his community, held himself and others accountable to what was right, and extended his hand in friendship to everyone around him.
I hope that all his fraternity brothers, all his friends, all his students, and everyone else who knew Andrew, will adopt those principles for themselves. It would be a fine way to honor the memory of Andrew Kuebrich.
Video: ABC7 News, Chicago