A 28-year-old MBA student from Vanderbilt University’s Owen School of Management was stabbed to death today (March 8) in a terrorist attack while on an MBA study trip to Israel. Taylor Force, who was profiled by Poets&Quants as one of the standout members of Owen’s Class of 2017, was attacked by a Palestinian terrorist along a popular seaside boulevard in Jaffa.
“Words can’t express today’s tragedy,” said Eric Johnson, dean of the Owen School. “We have been in touch with Taylor’s family to share our deepest sympathies during this time of heartbreaking loss.” Though only at the school since last fall, the first year MBA clearly made an impression. Read McNamara, assistant dean of corporate partnerships who knew Force as advisor to the school’s Armed Forces Club, said, “His loss creates a huge void, and a very somber and sad environment at Owen.”
A former field artillery officer in the U.S. Army, Force was half way through his second semester in Owen’s MBA program and on a spring break trip after exams ended on March 4. The school said he was among 29 Owen School students, accompanied by four faculty and staff, on a study tour to Israel to learn about global entrepreneurship through meetings with start-up companies. After the attack, Force was rushed to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon where he was pronounced dead.
He graduated from West Point Military Academy in 2009, following in the footsteps of his grandfather who was also a West Point grad, and served as an officer from 2009-2014. Force was based in Fort Hood, Texas, and had been deployed to the Middle East during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn in Iraq, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
The Lubbock, Texas, native and Eagle Scout told P&Q that he hoped the program would help him learn “the skills needed to be successful in business, I want to establish life-long connections and friendships with my fellow students from the U.S. and around the globe. Also, Vanderbilt already does a terrific job being a part of and giving back to the community; I would like to help maintain and promote that altruistic culture.”
STUDENT WENT TO ‘SHARE HIS INSIGHTS AND KNOWLEDGE WITH START-UPS IN ISRAEL’
Initial reports in Israel said that Force’s wife was critically injured in the attack, but he was not married. At least eight others were injured before the Palestinian terrorist was shot dead by the police. All other Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff on the trip have been reported safe. The stabbings were part of a day of violence in which five people were killed, including Force, three Palestinian attackers and a 50-year-old Palestinian woman who tried to lunge at security forces with a knife.
In a statement to the Vanderbilt community, Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said that Taylor embarked on this trip to “expand his understanding of global entrepreneurship and also to share his insights and knowledge with start-ups in Israel. He exemplified the spirit of discovery, learning and service that is the hallmark of our wonderful Owen community. This horrific act of violence has robbed our Vanderbilt family of a young hopeful life and all of the bright promise that he held for bettering our greater world.”
Force had told P&Q that it was his sister who recommended that he apply to Vanderbilt. “She had heard great things about the school from her friends who were alumni,” he said. “The faculty and admissions staff impressed me during my visit and interview during a Discover Weekend event. The location (Nashville), quality of the education, support for veterans, and diversity of students drew me to the school. Also, every graduate I spoke to described their time at the Owen School as the most productive and enjoyable two years of their lives. I knew that Owen was right for me.”
‘SUCH A FINE YOUNG MAN WITH A PASSION TO MAKE LIFE BETTER’
Chancellor Zeppos said that “Taylor’s family and his friends and colleagues have our deepest sympathy and utmost support. “In light of this loss, we as a community can look to find strength by continuing our commitment to build and nurture an educational environment whose foundational mission is to expand world peace and enlightenment.”
In a Facebook post, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he had been “reading about the American who was murdered. On behalf of the people of Israel, I send my condolences to Taylor’s family and friends. May his memory be a blessing.”
Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International, the world’s largest Jewish campus organization, also expressed his sorrow over the murder. “My condolences and the heartfelt grief of all of us at Hillel International are with Taylor Force’s family, friends and the entire community at Vanderbilt University,” said Fingerhut in a statement. “The ongoing violence in Israel touches each of us, but the loss of an American student is a particularly painful reminder of the precarious situation. Israel should be a place where all students can study and travel safely and free from fear.”
Among the comments left on the Chancellor’s statement was one from a person currently living in Israel. “What an awful day,” wrote Emanuel Miller. “Such a fine young man, with a passion to make life better for other people. Although I live in Israel myself and am sadly all-too-familiar with terrorism, this time it’s particularly difficult to bear. RIP, Taylor. May your family find comfort in the fact that you left such a good impression on this world. Sending much love to all those who knew you.
Twenty-nine Israelis and three foreign nationals have been killed in Israel in a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence since October.