Three Business School Students Killed in Car Crash

Viet Nguyen, 28, of Raleigh, N.C.; Chris Sahm, 29, of Long Island, N.Y.; and Micah Springer, 23, of Columbus, Ohio, died Oct. 10 near Big Sur, Calif.

October 14, 2008

Three MBA students from the Business School died Oct. 10 when the car in which they were riding apparently careened down a cliff off Highway 1 near Big Sur, Calif. The three killed were Viet Nguyen, 28, of Raleigh, N.C.; Chris Sahm, 29, of Long Island, N.Y.; and Micah Springer, 23, of Columbus, Ohio. They were reported missing the evening of Oct. 10 after failing to meet a group of fellow graduate students for a weekend gathering in Big Sur.

Classmates, who had arrived earlier at the retreat center and became worried, had notified authorities that there was debris on Highway 1 a few hundred yards from the turnoff to the center. On Saturday morning classmates found personal items belonging to the trio scattered down the hill from the highway. They signaled to a California Highway Patrol helicopter that had been dispatched to search and the car was spotted at the bottom of a cliff that dropped from 400 to 700 feet below the highway. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

On Wednesday, hundreds of classmates wearing red and white ribbons streamed in a long procession from the Schwab Residential Center, where Nguyen and Springer had lived, to the Business School a few blocks away for a memorial service. The trio were eulogized by classmates, relatives, Business School faculty, and staff with stories about their intelligence, humor, and humanity.

On Saturday as news of the deaths spread an impromptu gathering was held at the Schwab Residential Center that houses many first-year students. “There is no way to absorb the shock, the tragedy, the unfairness of these deaths,” Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann of the Stanford Religious Life office told the group. “Being part of a community provides a small modicum of solace at a time when there are no words. Our hope in gathering is that we can feel one another’s love, feel one another’s concern. This loss is harder than any other experience.”

“This is a tragic loss for the Stanford community of three brilliant and promising students who had so much to contribute to the world, and lost their lives too suddenly and too soon,” said Stanford University President John Hennessy. “To the families, friends, and graduate business colleagues of Viet, Chris, and Micah, and all those who are also grieving at this shocking news, we send our deepest sympathies from the entire university community.”

Business School Dean Robert L. Joss said that the School’s close-knit community was stunned and saddened at the loss of all three students. “All of us are shocked and full of grief, and our hearts and prayers go out to their families and friends,” Joss wrote in a note to students and faculty. “We will prepare plans for the coming week to remember them, to share our grief, and to support each other at such a difficult time.”

Nguyen and Springer were first-year MBA students who had started classes in late September. Springer also was pursuing a PhD in materials science and engineering. Sahm was in his second year of the MBA program.

Nguyen was first in his family to attend college. He earned undergraduate degrees at Duke University in political science and French and an MA in French from Columbia University. Before business school, he had a career in marketing watches and jewelry, working as a brand manager for Chanel and earlier as a product correspondent for Louis Vuitton and as a marketer for Baume Mercier.

Sahm earned his undergraduate degree in sociology at Harvard College. He worked in strategic planning at American Express in New York City and in Sao Paolo, Brazil. He then spent two years as a financial manager at Saks Fifth Avenue where he launched Saks’ co-branded credit card (with HBSC). He also volunteered as a mentor to troubled youth.

Springer earned his undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering at Ohio State University where he graduated at the top of his class. He had completed a year of his PhD in materials science engineering last year with a focus on nanomaterials for biomedical applications. He was combining that with his MBA to bridge the disconnect between scientific technology and the “real world.” Springer previously interned in the nanomaterials group at NASA. He survived a cancer diagnosis that gave him a life expectancy to the age of six. Friends said in his PhD work he was researching novel cancer eradication techniques and felt strongly that they could apply to cancer cures.

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