In November 2016, we lost an incredibly great friend in Benji Schuttler. Since that time, we have supported each other, provided avenues for our peers to express sorrow and process together.
Many of us knew about Benji’s passion for social impact, whether it was through the Wharton Social Impact Club, the Harvard Kennedy School program, the Boston Consulting Group’s social sector initiatives, Penn International Business Volunteers or various other organizations in which he played central roles.
Wharton Social Impact Week, which occurred last week, reminded me strongly of Benji and his vision for our campus community. It also made me reflect on Benji’s goal to do good in the world.
I was fortunate to first meet Benji in 2008, when we were freshmen in Penn’s Huntsman Program and lived in the same residential dorm. Over the next four years, Benji was not only a close friend but someone who inspired me to contribute to student life, and think about my potential for global impact. After graduation, we both joined the Boston Consulting Group. Throughout our eight years of friendship, Benji was always selfless, warm and kind. His loss has been devastating for his friends and family; we will continue to miss him every day.
Many students pursue a MBA with the aim of entering consulting or finance. Benji had a different ambition in mind. He wanted to change the world by improving access to education for students of limited means. In his travels to other countries, he saw that many children did not have the opportunity to attend school. Benji believed education was an equalizer and was working on a plan to create an organization to fund educational programs globally.
“His big idea, on which he wrote his graduate school application to Harvard and Wharton, was to establish a fund, much like the Gates Foundation, where donors could contribute and where education proposals would be received and evaluated,” said Schuttler’s mother, Deborah Sudbury. “Highly skilled individuals would review the proposals and determine which ones could be scaled to serve large amounts of children. Benji had been all over the world, working with people in many countries, and he saw the great need for more educational opportunities. He wanted to help provide those opportunities. He felt so passionately about creating a better world and he felt that even more urgently after his car accident.”
We all have the ability to live out Benji’s legacy, to be his active and ongoing force in the world – living in the way he touched all of our lives. As we reflect upon Social Impact Week, I would like to encourage us all to seek ways to incorporate social impact into our Wharton experiences and beyond. Whether we choose to attend events, join clubs or take a step back to introspect, I simply ask each of us to take some time to think about incorporating social impact in a more meaningful way into our busy lives.
If we allow ourselves to be inspired to action by Benji’s passion and determination, he will continue to be an agent for change in the world.