Scholarship award created in honor of Marine pilot

Sean Yoder
April 27, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Friends and fellow service members have come together in the wake of the death of Marine Capt. Samuel A. Schultz to create a scholarship award in his name to benefit a top-performing midshipman in the Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corp (NROTC) at Penn State.

Schultz, 28, originally of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, was killed during a training exercise in southern California alongside three other Marines on April 3 when the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter he was piloting crashed. He was a 2012 graduate of Penn State NROTC and earned a bachelor of science in security and risk analysis.

Capt. P.J. Burns, a close friend of Schultz, explained that Schultz went through his first year of NROTC without a scholarship. Through hard academic work and pursuit of extracurricular activities he was able to secure a scholarship during his sophomore year.

“He was big into THON, he was big into Habitat for Humanity at Penn State,” Burns said. “He volunteered for everything. He worked at a bunch of concession stands at football games. He would always be volunteering, trying to put that extra effort into his resume so that he could get that scholarship.”

Burns said the scholarship will reward NROTC midshipmen in similar situations.

“What we’re trying to do is award someone who has that same drive and passion, to help them start something and be able to go all the way through and finish it,” he said.

Burns, along with Justin Gaspar, Christopher Bream and Conor Downs make up the scholarship awards committee, and are all Penn State and NROTC graduates.

Though interviewed separately, Schultz’s friends had similar things to say: He loved flying, was fun-loving, adventurous, high-energy, a hard worker and a “goofball.”

“When I first found out we had lost Sam, I tried to sit down and think of a serious moment I shared with him and nothing came to mind,” said Downs. “That was just the kind of person he was. I was lucky enough to know Sam throughout our four years at Penn State in which we spent our senior year as roommates. Sam was an interesting mix of computer nerd, goofball and warrior.”

Downs and Schultz both were commissioned as second lieutenants a week after their graduation. They parted ways with Downs heading off to be an infantry officer, and Schultz to flight training.

“He was a Marine, a pilot, but above all a fiercely loyal friend who managed to always have a smile on his face,” Downs said.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Schultz came from a family of fliers, with his father holding a civilian pilot’s license and his grandfather having flown with the Army Air Force at the end of World War II.

His friends said he intensely pursued flying.

“The second — and third, and fourth, and probably hundredth — thing I think Sam said to me was that he was going to be a pilot after he commissioned,” Gaspar wrote in an email. “He had already obtained his private pilot’s license, and he let everybody know it (seemingly daily). He truly loved flying more than life itself, and being able to combine his passion for flying with his desire to serve allowed Sam to live out his dream while serving in the Marine Corps.”

Schultz’s high-energy, hard-working attitude expanded to all circles of his life, according to Gaspar.

“His high-energy enthusiasm went beyond just his love for flying,” he said. “Sam had endless energy for every activity he could involve himself in, whether it was working for Habitat for Humanity, taking countless canning trips for THON, or just looking for every opportunity to help out a friend. He brought energy and excitement to every room he stepped foot in.”

Schultz graduated from Abington Senior High School in 2008. After graduating from Penn State in 2012, he was assigned to the Third Marine Aircraft Wing’s 465th Squadron in San Diego and deployed with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The family held services for Schultz on Sunday, April 15. Rabbi Lance K. Sussman, who officiated the ceremony, wrote online that it was a standing room only affair attended by hundreds of Marines and Navy personnel.

Schultz is survived by his parents, Mitchell and Julie; a brother, Eric; and grandparents Phyllis and Arnold Rosoff.

Anyone wishing to donate to the Captain Sam Schultz Memorial Award can do so here.

Burns said if there are multiple candidates who fit the criteria during an awards window, the NROTC staff would pick the student they felt was most deserving of the scholarship.

“Sam was definitely one of the most loyal guys I've ever met,” Burns said. “He would be the first person to back you up. He would be the type of person that if 20 years down the line if I told him ‘Hey, I need you to be at this location,’ and I hadn't talked to him for 10 years, he would absolutely be there, just because that was Sam's personality.”

Last Updated May 22, 2018