Posted Wednesday, May 30, 3:15 p.m.
Known to many as “Feather Phill,” Phillip Grosser, 22, had a distinct presence on campus, both spiritually and visually. Many of Grosser’s close friends remember him as someone passionate about celebrating and sharing his Christian faith.
But even those who did not know Grosser personally could identify him by the feather-adorned hat, a graduation gift, he wore daily. Grosser died May 27 when another vehicle struck his motorcycle at a Colorado Springs, Colo., intersection.
Even on his motorcycle, Grosser was still “Feather Phill.” When he drove friends to church on his motorcycle, or just drove around campus, he retained his mark of distinction by attaching a feather to his helmet.
“He was just himself always – to the extreme,” said Laura Hostetler, a recent graduate. “Everyone knew who he was because he was such a character.”
A New Hampshire native, Grosser was in Colorado interning for a nonprofit Christian development organization, Engineering Ministries International. Grosser planned to return to GW for a fifth year in the fall to complete the requirements for his degree in civil engineering.
In June, Grosser planned to visit Liberia for EMI to do development work and preach the Gospel. His mother, Elizabeth, said Grosser wanted to pursue a profession that combined civil engineering with spreading Christianity.
“He loved Jesus . he had an infectious smile,” Elizabeth Grosser said of her son.
A member of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, a campus ministry group, Grosser mentored younger students in Intervarsity, and helped organize social events. Many of his closest friends were also Intervarsity members, a group they considered synonymous with family.
“Everybody knew who he was and loved spending time with him,” said Will Clark, a staff member at Intervarsity. “He was a really big part of the community.”
Clark called him a “wonderful free spirit,” and added, “He was just his own man . and that was just great.”
Walt Quick, another staff member at Intervarsity, remembered Grosser’s love of “really lame puns” and his loud, distinctive laugh.
“He had a really magnetic personality . he had a great love for people,” Quick said.
In addition to his commitment to Intervarsity activities, Grosser played the saxophone and clarinet, and enjoyed hiking and ultimate Frisbee. He made chain mail bracelets and would often cook dinner for his friends.
“In all aspects of his life – his appearance, his clothes, his hobbies – he was guided by what he loved rather than what others around him were doing,” a recent graduate Lauren Waterhouse wrote in an e-mail. “He was also incredibly honest, always pausing a moment when you asked him how he was so that he could give an accurate answer.”
Recent graduate Robert Laramey was both a roommate and friend of Grosser’s. He echoed the description of Grosser as eccentric but lovable.
“He was different, but he didn’t let other people get him down because of that,” Laramey said. “He just liked to get laughs out of people.
Recent graduate Jeremiah Burke also said he remembered his friend’s spontaneity and sense of humor. Burke said he first met Grosser when he encountered him standing on a street corner singing the National Anthem at 3 a.m.
Burke said his faith in Christianity has influenced his attitude toward his friend’s death.
“He’s a fellow brother in Christ, we know where he is,” Burke said. “We’re not even really mourning it. He is in a place that is much better right now.”
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said he is in some ways the father of GW students and said he is saddened by the news of Grosser’s death even though he did not know him personally.
Trachtenberg compared the tragedy to the early death of a child.
“It is in the natural order of things that children bury their parents,” Trachtenberg said. “It is always a particularly melancholy occasion when that is reversed.”
Grosser is survived by his parents, Elizabeth and John, as well as a brother and sister. A memorial service is tentatively scheduled for Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. in Kogan Plaza.
A memorial service in New Hampshire is tentatively scheduled for Saturday at Londonderry Presbyterian Church in Londonderry, N.H. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Engineering Ministries International.