Death saddens, bewilders Duke

Florida native's body was found Friday at the bottom of a stairwell

Staff WriterOctober 26, 2010 

— Duke University officials say they don't yet know the circumstances surrounding the death of a student who apparently fell from some stairs last week.

Drew Everson's body was found Friday morning at the base of a stairwell in the back of the East Union Building, a dining hall on Duke's East Campus.

A senior from Florida, Everson, 21, lived in an apartment nearby. It isn't clear whether he was alone, why he was on or near the stairwell, and whether alcohol contributed to his death. Duke officials hope to release more information later this week once Duke police finish their investigation. The university has attributed his death to "an accidental fall," according to a news release issued Sunday.

"There are some things we'll just never know," said Michael Schoenfeld, a Duke spokesman. "[But] there is no indication of anything other than a tragic accident."

Everson's friends and family are left this week to remember an affable, quick-witted jokester with smarts and a future in finance. A public memorial service is set for noon Wednesday at Duke Chapel, with a reception to follow at Scharf Hall, adjacent to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The precise time of Everson's death isn't yet known. He had been out with friends the previous evening at Satisfaction, a popular Durham bar and restaurant, until 2:30 a.m., said Jordan Stone, a friend and president of Pi Kappa Phi, the fraternity where Everson was a member.

"We're not really sure what happened after that," said Stone, a junior from Chicago. "We have no idea if it was a fall down the stairs. My guess is as good as yours."

The area where Everson's body was found is near a loading area , Schoenfeld said. "It's an area where people walk, but it's not a main path," he said.

Everson, from Tampa, was popular, fun and serious about his future, said Stone, who referred to him "the life of the party."

'Totally motivated'

Everson spent the summer interning at Goldman Sachs and was already weighing job offers in financial services. A political science major, he was working toward a certificate in markets and management.

"He'd been absolutely dominating the investment bank internship scene," Stone said. "He was totally motivated. He was just a brilliant analytical thinker."

Everson pledged Pi Kappa Phi as a freshman in spring 2008 and had forged close bonds with members of his pledge class, Stone said.

Everson had many interests. Along with the fraternity, he had written columns for the Duke Chronicle and was a member of Duke's debate team and a student comedy troupe.

"He was a real binding agent; he drew people together," said Steve Nowicki, Duke's dean and vice provost for undergraduate education. "He had hundreds of friends here. And not just Facebook friends. Real friends."

Nowicki met Everson when he enrolled, as a sophomore, in Nowicki's "Translating Science" course meant for juniors and seniors - and excelled in it.

"He was the kind of student I'd go out and tell prospective Duke students and parents about," Nowicki said. "And I still will."

eric.ferreri@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4563

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