Naman Shah

An Unexpected Loss and a Gentle Reminder

by Dennis Shaughnessy

Ear­lier this month we lost one of our beloved stu­dents, Naman Shah, to an untimely death at the age of 21.  His short life reminds me of a some­thing I read long ago, that given a choice between a life of com­fort and a life of mean­ing, the wise per­son will choose the lat­ter.  We too often hear of unnec­es­sary and pre­ma­ture deaths in the world, in fact we’ve all seen the sta­tis­tic that sev­eral thou­sand chil­dren die need­lessly each day from poverty and dis­ease.  Every life mat­ters, and yet when it’s some­one you know, whose path crossed yours, the idea of a sense­less death in the face of such promise is that much more powerful.  

Naman lived a short but mean­ing­ful life, com­bin­ing humor and intel­li­gence with com­pas­sion for oth­ers.  Walk­ing through a poor vil­lage of dis­placed Hait­ian fam­i­lies as part of our micro­fi­nance field pro­gram in 2011, Naman told me that he would never for­get these oth­er­wise for­got­ten peo­ple.  He softly said that one day he would make a dif­fer­ence in the lives of peo­ple like this, born into poverty and with­out the oppor­tu­nity he had been given in life.  Even in these dis­tant sugar cane fields, Naman remained true to his Indian roots.  He really would be the change.

Naman planned a career in finance or entre­pre­neur­ship after com­plet­ing his busi­ness stud­ies, but he also planned to live a full life in which he would reach out and use his knowl­edge and skills to help oth­ers.  He sup­ported orga­ni­za­tions like Akshaya Patra, which pro­vides spon­sored lunch for poor school chil­dren in India, among many oth­ers.  Around the cor­ner from his home, it was the Best  Bud­dies pro­gram at the YMCA, and the Joslin Dia­betes Clinic.  A life of ser­vice, with­out pro­mo­tion or fanfare.

When plan­ning to be great in life, as so many gifted and deter­mined stu­dents like Naman do each day, it’s impor­tant to remem­ber the impor­tance of being good.  Naman appre­ci­ated the dif­fer­ence, and pur­sued both with equal pas­sion.  His friends and fel­low stu­dents loved his goofy laugh and endear­ing smile, his pos­i­tive out­look and unwa­ver­ing opti­mism.  All of us at SEI are inspired by the short but good life of our young friend, Naman.  

Naman Shah’s life truly mat­tered, to all of us.  

SEI friends and col­leagues of Naman are orga­niz­ing a schol­ar­ship fund in his mem­ory for deserv­ing stu­dents who wish to par­tic­i­pate in our social entre­pre­neur­ship pro­grams. If you would like to con­tribute to the Naman Shah Memo­r­ial Schol­ar­ship, please con­tact Esther Chou at

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