Alum dies in Ethiopia, officials suspect homicide

A GW alumnus working for the State Department was found dead in Ethiopia this week and U.S. government officials say his death is being investigated as a homicide.

Brian Adkins, who graduated in 2007, worked for the State Department as a Foreign Service officer stationed in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. Representatives from the State Department said Wednesday that Adkins died on Saturday, but would not give further details because it was an ongoing homicide investigation.

Adkins, who would have turned 26 on Feb. 2, completed both his undergraduate and graduate studies at GW, graduating summa cum laude as an international affairs major from the Elliott School of International Affairs in 2005. He joined the State Department after receiving his master’s degree in 2007 and was assigned to Ethiopia.

After studying the indigenous
language and culture for nearly
a year, Adkins moved to Ethiopia as
part of a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship.

John Wysham, head of the Ethiopia desk at the State Department, said he was unable to provide details about Adkins’ death or the homicide investigation.

“The trouble here is that it is a crime scene we are talking about,” Wysham said. “It wasn’t like he fell off a rock and hit his head.”

He added, “We’d love to talk about it and stop some of these rumors but we cannot.”

Wysham said that he has been in contact with the Ethiopian embassy and Ethopian police forces about the ongoing investigation.

A Foreign Service officer also stationed in Africa is planning to accompany Adkins’ body from Ethiopia to the United States, Wysham said. The casket will be transported by military aircraft.

Ginny Boncy, a member of the State Department’s casualty assistance department, said Adkins was in the first year of his assignment and performing consular work for the State Department.

Consular work typically includes providing services like assisting Americans in distress and handling visas and passports.

Though Adkins’ father could not be reached for comment, senior Michael Geremia, one of Adkins’ best friends, described the Ohio native as “selfless, hardworking, confident, funny, charming, articulate, a scholar and a gentleman.”

“The world has lost someone who had so much to offer. I miss him tremendously,” Geremia said. “When I received word of his death on Monday, which would have been his 26th birthday, a piece of me died in Ethiopia.”

Geremia said that he last spoke to Adkins on Sunday, Jan. 25, when the two friends started to plan Adkins’ summer vacation in D.C.

“He was so excited to be in Africa serving his country as a diplomat, promoting American values,” Geremia said. “As much as he loved his career, he missed the U.S.”

Geremia said that despite the trials of living abroad, Adkins was optimistic about his future as a diplomat.

“Whenever I would urge him to be safe, he would reassure me that Ethiopia was safer than D.C.,” Geremia said.

As a student in Foggy Bottom, Adkins was a leader at the Knights of Columbus and the Newman Center, two organizations devoted to the Catholic faith.

He served as a trustee and held several officer positions with the Knights, including chancellor in charge of membership. After graduating, Adkins served as state ceremonial chairman and district warren for the Knights. In 2007, he was named Knight of the Year in D.C.

“He was friendly to everyone, incredibly devoted to his faith, and always willing to volunteer and give of himself,” said senior Conrad Murphy, a former grand knight. “When he left for Ethiopia, we found that it took at least three of us just to fill his shoes.”

Friends and fellow members of the Knights of Columbus, including Murphy, said Adkins will be remembered as incredibly intelligent and always working to master a new language. He spoke French, Arabic and Amharic, the official working language of Ethiopia.

Tom Saccoccia, a fellow 2007 alumnus and close friend, said Adkins will also be remembered for his humility.

“He just wasn’t a credit grabber, even though he did everything,” Saccoccia said. “He was just an all-around good guy.”

Adkins was a native of Columbus, Ohio. A Rite of Christian Burial is planned in his honor at St. Mary’s Church in his hometown.

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