One in 2000: Andrew Udell ’16

I first met Andrew Udell ’16 at a semester away program at the Mountain School during junior year of high school when we bonded over a mutual appreciation for bad puns and good bagels. Since then my obsession with him has only grown. Udell is good at everything he does and, knowing Udell, probably everything he does not do. Of course, he would be the last person to ever tell you that. But I have zero problems chronicling all of his best characteristics, starting with the founding of the Williams Beekeepers’ Club. Now I know what you’re thinking: He’s funny, he’s got a mean backhand in ping-pong and he’s a friend to the bees – what’s not to like? My answer? Absolutely nothing.  

So, Andrew. I hear you’ve started the beekeeping club. What’s the buzz about?

I met this kid named Reid Pryzant [’16] on my WOOLF trip and I’d always wanted to learn beekeeping. He’d done it for the past couple of years, and we figured we could start a club and get other people involved.

How many people are involved right now?

We have like 30 people on our listserv. Not as many people come to the meetings …

Guilty. 

I’m going to leave it at that. But we’re getting the bees in April, and we have a lot of the equipment. We’re hoping to do projects like give honey to Goodrich for honey walnut cream cheese. Honey that we’ll make ourselves.

That’s pretty sweet of you.

Pun intended?

Always. And I hear you’re a defender of all animals, not just bees.

I have been a vegetarian for the past couple of years. A friend and I both read a book by Jonathan Safran-Foer [Eating Animals]. We figured we’d just try it out, and then we decided we wanted to do it with other kids in our high school as well. So we started Veguary.

As in a combination of vegetarian and February? 

Yeah, exactly. We ended up making this pledge online. We started out just wanting to get friends to pledge to do it with us for the month of February, but at the end of the first year we got like 400 people to pledge with us. And then we did it for the rest of high school and we got about 1600 people to pledge in those three years from over ten different countries. They’d all pledge to be a veg.

What a slogan. So you’ve got the beekeeping club, Veguary – you seem to like building things.

Yeah, I do. For the past two summers I’ve actually worked for start-ups in the city.

What is it about start-ups that you love?

It’s cool that young people can have a pretty big effect, and can actually contribute, instead of just doing intern tasks. I also like how start-ups in general can kind of challenge the bigger companies. I think it’s cool, the sort of mobility these startups have. That they can accomplish a lot even if they just start up with a couple of guys trying to mock up a product.

When did you become interested in start-ups?

I guess in elementary school. I wrote my college essay about how I emailed this industrial designer if I could intern with him. And I was in sixth grade. And he said: “Well, um, you’re a little bit young.”

You were definitely a pretty persistent kid. I hear you had a similar experience in fifth grade? 

The story that my parents always bring up is how in fifth grade there was this really strict teacher. And we had this really long creative story to write about personifying a teddy bear. And I wrote the story, and I was really proud of it. And then she called me in to talk to me about it. And she was like, “Andrew, here are a lot of edits that I have for you. I think you could really improve this paper.” And she gave me a bunch of suggestions. And I was like, “Eh, I’m satisfied with it. Thanks though.” I honestly don’t remember that happening but …

But it sounds like you.

Yeah, I don’t not believe it.

I don’t not believe it, either. And you also lived on an organic farm for four months? 

Right. It was this place called The Mountain School, which is a one-semester program for juniors in rural Vermont. It’s focused on living in a cooperative space. The students take care of the school. We had a two-hour work period every day where we would farm or prepare vegetables.

And in return the school sends you out into the woods for four days by yourself.

Yeah, one feature of The Mountain School is that they did a four day, three night solo. Where you’re on your own for four days. In the woods.

And how was the weather?

Well when we happened to go, it was a tropical rainstorm. So the first day was awesome, I read The Catcher in the Rye and really enjoyed it. And that night it started to rain.

And it didn’t stop.

Yeah, I just remained soaked until the very end of the trip. I don’t remember much because I just had to sleep through most of it in puddles in my tarp. But it was cool coming back because everyone had to go through it. Even though you were in solitude, it was very much a group experience. It’s sort of like WOOLF, where everyone had to brave the elements and be out of their comfort zones. So you definitely feel closer to those people.

A.K.A. me.

Whatever helps you sleep at night. But basically it was really nice to get out of both the school that I’d been to for such a long time and New York City, and be in rural Vermont with 44 students and great teachers. And I think that’s probably why I ended up at a small school because I wanted an environment that’s similar to The Mountain School.

Lucky for us.

No, lucky for me.