Honoring a philosopher wrestling coach, this competition develops ethics

Developed as a tribute to an Ursinus wrestling coach and philosopher, an essay program came full circle when an Ursinus wrestler won the Schellhase Essay Prize in Ethics award this year.

Wrestler Christopher Tan ’18 won $2,000 with his essay, “Dissonance between Personal Belief and Professional Values and the Challenge of Facing Other Conflicting Ideas.”

Second Place was earned by Sarah Becker ’20, with “Balancing the Rights and Needs of Stakeholders;” and third place, by Gabriel Tenaglia ’20, with “Jess Smith and the Design Firm.”

Tan, a double major in applied economics and international relations, said his finance class was encouraged to enter. In its fourth year, the competition is a tribute to Richard Schellhase, ’45, who was a wrestling coach and mentor to Will Abele ’61, a former Ursinus wrestler who went on to be a successful businessman and Ursinus College trustee. Abele sponsors the competition through the U-Imagine Center for Integrative and Entrepreneurial Studies, named to honor Schellhase, who still writes essays for philosophy journals.

Dr. Richard Tyson Schellhase, now in his 90s, was reading every essay entered until recently, and now reads the finalist essays. “He is a prime example of what many students at Ursinus have experienced,” said Abele. ”A professor who puts you on your life’s path.”

The son of a member of the Ursinus Class of 1918, the Rev. Schellhase has had a long and distinguished career in the clergy and also in philanthropy, including as Director of Development for the Buddhist Churches of America Endowment Foundation. An assistant professor of Religion at Ursinus from 1956 to 1964, he is a member of the Hall of Fame for Athletes for his accomplishments in track, football and wrestling, for which he was also a coach.

To provide a common experience for the campus, this year’s contest called for entrants to read and respond to a case study that presents a hypothetical ethical decision facing a young person in the workplace. The case concerns someone asked to promote a philosophy against her beliefs.

Judges were alumni Robert Brancatelli ’78, Elizabeth Kowalewskii ’06, Katherine Blair ’10, Professor Rebecca Jaroff ’81 and A.J. Davis ’06.

Of 29 entrants there were eight finalists. “Even those who did not win had the opportunity to struggle for a while with an ethical dilemma,” said coordinator Scott Deacle, from the business and Economics faculty. Learning how to frame an ethical issue and write about it is developing a life skill, he noted.

Abele added one caveat regarding Schellhase: “Dick stopped me on campus and told me, ‘Someday you will have an obligation to support his school,’” recalled Abele. He then charged the Schellhase essay writers to give back to Ursinus. – by Wendy Greenberg