Xavier A. Engle


Xavier-Doc-obit-photoXavier Alexander Engle, 27, of Anchorage, died on November 30, 2014 in a tragic kayaking accident in Robe Canyon of the Stillaguamish River north of Seattle. A world-class whitewater kayaker, he was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico on July 27, 1987 and raised in Anchorage. He graduated from Anchorage West High School, and graduated cum laude with highest honors with a B.A. in Cellular Biochemistry from Dartmouth College in 2009. Xavier was a third-year Alaska WWAMI student at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle and had been accepted into the Global Masters of Public Health Program.


In 2010, he met his life partner Kaitlyn Mulhern Kennedy, now a third-year Idaho WWAMI medical student, in Ft. Collins, Colorado, where he was an Emerging Infectious Disease Fellow at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


A traveler to nearly every continent, Xavier was fluent in Spanish and began kayaking the world in high school, with a semester studying in Chile. He was a member of Ledyard Canoe Club at Dartmouth, and while in college continued a kayaking career on rivers throughout North and South America, Africa, Siberia and New Zealand. He was especially proud to have paddled the North American Triple Crown in Alaska and British Columbia, making the only known springtime descent of the Stikine, running the Homathko in British Columbia and paddling seven top-to-bottom runs on the North Fork of the Payette in one day, dropping more vertical feet in a kayak than anybody ever has.


In 2007, Xavier spent a semester at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he studied international relations theory and comparative politics, and researched humanitarian aid-related foreign policymaking. While at LSOE, he received the Rick Angulo World Experience Award, which recognizes a Dartmouth student whose intellectual openness, enthusiasm and academic performance embody the spirit of off-campus programs.


He was the co-author of several published scientific papers, including in Tropical Doctor; Cancer Research; Blood and the Journal of Clinical Investigation. At the time of his death, he was working on additional academic projects, including one with Seattle Children’s Hospital.


He volunteered at Children’s Surgical Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; worked with immigrants at the Terry Reilly Health Services in Boise; and was a public health volunteer with Soft Power Health in rural Uganda.


In addition to kayaking, Xavier was passionate about backcountry skiing, hiking, mountain biking and everything else that got him into the mountains. He loved making music, and played classical clarinet, jazz piano, blues harmonica and guitar.


Xavier is survived by his life partner, Kaitlyn Mulhern Kennedy of Boise; mother Pamela Engle of Anchorage; half-brother Caio Gray of Marinwood, California; biological father Kirk Gray of Marinwood; biological mother Afra Roet of San Diego; aunt Lynne Nelson of Rockford, Illinois; cousins Jeffrey Nelson (Rob Cogorno) of Washington, D.C.; Jody Nelson Andruss of Madison, Wisconsin; and Julee Nelson (Paul Dean) of New York City. He is survived by nieces Ali Andruss of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Sophia Dean of New York; and nephew Eli Nelson Andruss of Madison.


A celebration of Xavier’s life will be held in Seattle on Friday, December 12, at the University of Washington Club on the campus of the University of Washington, from 4-7pm. In Anchorage, a celebration will be held on Sunday, December 21 from 2-5pm at Tap Root Public House. A later celebration will be held in Boise.


The family suggests that donations may be made to Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), American Rivers, or the charity of one’s choice.

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