Drew Johnston

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Campus Character: Drew Johnston

by Alex Swanson

Drew Johnston, CC ’17, is widely known as a “nice guy.” He’s not that “nice guy” who you needlessly promote to some inquiring acquaintance because you’re too awkward to admit you don’t know the kid, he’s not the “nice guy” who’s horridly bland but, you admit, harmless, and he’s certainly not the “nice guy” who is in actual fact a quintessential fuck- boi you happen to be friends with and find yourself defending; no, he is the OG “nice guy,” the genuine and unpretentious sort that truly deserves the honorific.

 

Perhaps it is this niceness that has led to Drew’s widespread fanclub and popularity, but Drew seems adamant that it is “via fencing that I’m known to a lot of people.” Being the only activity other than chess that Columbia has any talent in, Columbia Fencing boasts two recent NCAA titles and holds all fifteen in Columbia’s history. The NCAA, for Drew, “was amazing to watch..and cool to be a part of.” Unlike “volatile” normal college meets, which go to five as opposed to fifteen points (it was via this format that the illustrious Drew beat the current world #1), winning the NCAA was a more “legit thing.” It remains his fondest fencing memory.

 

But Drew goes on to tell me that “fencing eats your entire life.” He recalls one week last year that saw him fly to France and Toronto for international meets, before rushing back to New York for three back-to-back college meets, a lifestyle he described as “unsustainable,” much like his freshmen experience. “I think people would have a different impression of me if they met me freshmen year,” Drew tells me before promptly changing the subject. Widespread popularity often dawns with freshman mistakes so I figured there was a story or two. “I don’t think you can publish” was the answer to my continued prying.

 

Whatever his past degeneracy, it certainly hasn’t tainted Drew’s sharp mind. He tells me that he’s double majoring in Economics and Computer Science. This summer, Drew has worked at Deutsche Bank as a software engineer with plans to merge his two disciplines in later employment. “The good thing about doing econ and comp sci,” Drew explains, “is that banks are competing to hire you against tech companies that are like, ‘We love our employees, have some free lunch!,’ so they promise you paid overtime.”

 

The conversation curves on. Rumors exist of a so-called Triangle Society around campus, of which Drew is an alleged member, and so of course I seize my chance. “And what of Triangle Society?” I ask. A born fencer, Drew’s eyes flash and he immediately takes guard: “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he suavely ripostes. But not without allowing a wry smile to escape.

 

Despite his many other commitments, Drew finds room in his life for activism. His chosen cause is the misrepresentation of pricing at Lion’s Head’s so-called “dollar beer” night. “It’s two dollars,” he begins to rant. “It’s a brilliant psychological maneuver, naming it “dollar beers” and then raising the price. I’ve been trying to develop the truth and call it “dollar dollar beer night or­—”

 

At this moment, a small child approaches our bench and unscrews a plastic egg in front of us to reveal some gravel shards he had stored inside. He then scampers off with a smile, leaving me and Drew with the egg and without any idea of what on earth had just occurred. “…Or maybe two dollar beer night,” Drew concludes.