Berkeley Haas Transforms Tragedy into Social Good

In the wake of a heartbreaking tragedy, students at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, utilized their empathy and initiative, creating a chance to fund future underrepresented minority and social impact startups.

The Haas EMBA Class of 2017 established the Sanaya Shah Memorial Fund to honor classmate Sumit Shah and his wife Astha Shah’s daughter Sanaya, who passed away after 52 days “due to complications from prematurity and a rare heart condition.”

“She was our little warrior princess, a true fighter to the very end who never gave up,” Sumit said in a Haas news brief.

Shah’s classmates helped coordinate “help with everything from meals to rides to places to stay while the Shahs commuted to UCSF Hospital from their home in Mountain View every day.”

Sumit writes, “Astha and I very humbled by the love we received from our Haas family. We are touched by everyone’s kindness and willingness to help.  We greatly appreciate all the support and cannot thank everyone enough for helping us through this very difficult time.”

Haas EMBA students attending the Diwali festival of lights fundraiser, hosted by Sumit Shah and Sonali Patel / Photo via Berkeley Haas.

VP of Philanthropy Tina Summers said, “[Sumit and I] sat next to each other for a couple of terms when we started, and I had the opportunity to get to know him—being neighbors. We became family very quickly. Everybody was really heartbroken, and just wanted to contribute to make it a little easier for Sumit and Astha.”

The Sanaya Shah Memorial Fund has raised roughly $97,000, with contributions from nearly 60 percent of the EMBA class. The first $5,000 grants will be awarded in September 2018.

Summers says with the support of the EMBA class and the extended families who continue to contribute, “the fund is intended to live on, so we’re hoping to plan annual fundraisers and events like fun runs to continually raise money.”


About the Author

Jonathan Pfeffer

Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as contributing writer at MetroMBA and contributing editor at Clear Admit, he is co-founder and lead producer of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.

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