This past week I had the experience of mourning two Wesleyan friends in very different circumstances. The first was my beloved teacher Victor Gourevitch, who died on April 14 at the age of 94. The second, devastatingly unexpected loss was my colleague and friend Andrew Stuerzel, Wesleyan Class of 2005, who passed away after a medical emergency on April 17th. Andrew was 37.
I studied ancient philosophy, political philosophy and, most memorably, Hegel with Victor from 1976-1978. He was intense and challenging, and he cared deeply about opening his students’ thinking to enduring questions and problems. He was a student of the German-Jewish philosopher Leo Strauss, and he remained dedicated to what Victor called the zetetic dimension of Strauss’s thought. A few years after I graduated, we worked together on publishing the letters between Strauss and the Russian/French Hegelian Alexandre Kojève (in Strauss’s On Tyranny). While many other American students of Leo Strauss went on to a pious celebration of conservatism and the market economies of modern democratic regimes, Victor was a lifelong opponent of this reductionist approach to political philosophy. He was also an opponent of both the naive and the authoritarian forms of what’s called progressive thinking. A man of immense learning, Victor could be ruthlessly critical of the cliches we use to get along (or to bring others along), and he could also be enormously generous to those who were willing to open their minds and hearts to inquiry. Some of his great friends were artists and musicians devoted to experimentation and creativity, or philosophers with whom he strongly disagreed. Along with his wife Jacqueline (who taught painting at Wesleyan for many years), he was among the most hospitable, gracious people I’ve known. I am so grateful for his teaching and his friendship.
A day after Victor’s burial, I received the shocking news that Andrew Stuerzel ’05 had collapsed and passed away during a visit to Middletown. Not long after graduating from Wesleyan (and traveling in Asia), Andrew joined our Office of Admission. In 2012 he moved over to University Relations, first as a Major Gift Officer and then as Associate Director for International Advancement. As an undergraduate at Wesleyan, Andrew played baseball, rugby, and earned the NESCAC All-American Award for football. Andrew’s major was East Asian Studies and, following graduation, he completed Stanford University’s advanced Japanese Language Program. After 10 years at Wes, Andrew decided to pursue a new position this past January with Boston Children’s Hospital.
I got to know Andrew when we traveled together in Asia. He seemed to me indefatigable—always ready for a new adventure, taking on a new assignment, curious about some new place to visit. He was enormously helpful as a colleague, and he established deep and lasting friendships with alumni and parents of Wes students all over the world. We enjoyed many a meal together (and suffered together with food poisoning) as we sang the praises of alma mater in order to raise support for its programs. His easy smile and authentic exuberance made him a cherished colleague to so many of us.
Andrew was a devoted husband to his wife, Adriana Rojas ’07, and loving father to children, Reese and Marco. He will be sorely missed by many. Family and friends have created a Gofundme page in his honor.
There are so many losses these days, and they are even harder to bear in our isolation from one another and our traditional rituals of mourning. If you are grieving, I hope you remember there is a community of Wesleyan support. Reach out, take care of one another, and take care of yourselves.
Post updated with corrected dates.