Zachary Woods WG ’16 passed away on Tuesday following a car accident on 30th and Walnut St. In an effort to avoid the accident, Woods climbed a traffic pole which was ultimately struck by a car that thrust him and the pole 38 feet off of an elevated part of Walnut St.
Woods had arrived on campus on May 1 to begin the Lauder Institute’s China Track before starting his MBA at Wharton this August. He was one of 66 students in Class of 2016 to pursue the Lauder MA / MBA joint degree program.
Prior to Wharton, Woods spent five years in China both as a manager at a Chinese wastewater treatment plant and as a fundraiser for Chinese investments to support projects in New York. He also met his girlfriend, an expat from Georgia, in China and was planning to propose to her when he returned to China for his studies this Spring.
Woods graduated from Middlebury College in 2009, where he studied Chinese at the College’s prestigious language program. In addition to pursuing a rigorous and challenging course of study, Zach was a standout Div. III swimmer at Middlebury, breaking three varsity records and placing 11th in the 200-meter backstroke at NCAAs in 2009.
Akshay Khanna WG ’15, Woods’ freshman year roommate at Middlebury described Woods as a resilient, overwhelmingly positive and passionate friend. “Zach was the first person I met at Middlebury…we spent a lot of time together in the most absurd and remarkable year of our lives. He was a really great guy who was outgoing, social and always happy,” he said. “He had this amazing ability to rebound from any challenge – social, academic, or athletic. Ask anyone – he was just so much fun to be around.”
Peter Solomon, his swim coach at Middlebury, echoed Khanna’s sentiments in a recent article in the Philadelphia Daily News. “He was just a funny, crazy guy that everyone loved to be around. He brought everyone together with his personality.”
Family members and friends have been leaving flowers and cards at the site of the accident. And fellow incoming Lauder students held a vigil at the site of the accident on Wednesday afternoon.
The funeral service will be held in Monroe, NY, Woods’ hometown. Mass will be Monday, May 12, 2014 at The Sacred Heart Church and the Visitation will be at Smith, Seaman and Quackenbush Funeral Home from 2 to 6 p.m on Sunday. Students are currently working with the Chaplain to plan a memorial on campus.
Finally, The Wharton Journal has also launched a private submission box to send messages and prayers to Woods’ family. Those interested in sharing their support privately can do so here or more publicly in the comments section below this article.
Seeking Out Support
University’s Student Intervention Services, the Chaplain’s Office and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) are available to speak with students. They can be reached at 215-898-7021 or by contacting Dr. Miki Saraf at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peers have also stepped up to help members of the Lauder Class of 2016 cope with the incident. Members of the Lauder Class of 2015 have been working to support the incoming Lauderites that just arrived on campus. One incoming second year from each of the Lauder language / regional tracks has been designated as a point person for each incoming Lauder track group.
“There are so many resources at Wharton and an outpouring of support from students and faculty,” Khanna said. “As the point person for the Hindi track, I’m trying to let the incoming first years know about all the resources that are available to them: CAPS and the fellows (VF, LF, SLF) on campus who are willing to help.”
Joel Simpson WG ’15, a Leadership Fellow and member of The Lauder Program said, “All of us are here and willing to support in any way that we can. There is no shortage of people wanting to help the incoming class.”