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Schellhase Prize Recognizes Best Essays on Ethics

Christopher Tan ’18, Kailyn Cohen ’20 and Sarah Becker ’20 were honored during a special event in Olin Auditorium on April 17.

The Richard T. Schellhase Essay Prize in Ethics invites students to submit an essay on a topic of ethical or moral importance. This year, the students were challenged with writing about either the relationship between corporations and the environment, or issues and challenges surrounding student debt. 

Sponsored by Ursinus’s U-Imagine Center for Integrative and Entrepreneurial Studies, the prize honors Richard Schellhase ’45, a beloved Ursinus alumnus, coach and mentor, and is funded by Will Abele ’61, a member of the Ursinus College Board of Trustees. Schellhase had a long and distinguished career in philanthropy and in the clergy, and served as assistant professor of religion at Ursinus from 1956-64. 

First prize was awarded to Tan, an applied economics and international relations major for his essay, “Thinking Like a Fox: Individual Choice and the Unique Role of Liberal Arts Colleges in Empowering America’s Future Leaders.” He received a $2,000 award. Tan became the first two-time winner of the contest, having won first prize in 2017.

Second place ($1,000) went to Cohen, a chemistry major, for her essay “Environmental Sustainability for Business Success.” Sarah Becker ’20, an environmental studies major, won third prize ($500) for her essay, “Corporations and Environmental Responsibility: Considering the Moral and Financial Implications of Oil Spills, Fracking and Controversial Pipelines.” Becker won second prize in last year’s contest.

Honorable mentions went to Elizabeth Iobst ’19 and Jakob Twill ’20.

The contest was judged by alumni Robert Brancatelli ’78, Elizabeth Kowalewski ’06, Katherine Blair ’10, and A.J. Davis ’06.

Michael Stiles, former executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Philadelphia Phillies, will serve as guest speaker. Stiles joined the Phillies in 2001 as vice president for administration and operations following a legal career that included stints as a city prosecutor, trial judge and the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

In remarks given after prizes were announced, Stiles discussed making judgments related to a variety of well-publicized incidents, ranging from the trial of MOVE leader Ramona Africa in 1985 to the case of a police officer who Tasered a Philadelphia Phillies fan who ran on the field during a game in 2010.

The cash prizes, as well as funding for a dinner to honor contest finalists, were provided by Abele, an Urisnus trustee who established the contest in 2014 to honor Schellhase, his professor and wrestling coach at Ursinus.

For each essay topic, a prompt presented students with an ethical dilemma requiring a recommended course of action and an examination of the broader issues. Students had an opportunity to enroll in a one-credit class in which they could examine and discuss the issues raised by the prompt while getting advice on writing about ethics.

The prize-winning authors will discuss their essays at the college’s Celebration of Student Achievement (CoSA) on Thursday, April 19 at noon in Musser Auditorium in Pfahler Hall.