Scholarship honors memory of alumnus by helping other career-changing MBAs
MBA student John Rofail, who hopes to strengthen his pre-med undergraduate studies with business knowledge, is the first recipient of an endowed scholarship created to remember the life of an MBA alumnus who died in 2018.
“I want the MBA to get that business skillset,” said Rofail, who plans to focus his studies in finance. “I think bringing in the business aspect will enhance my science skillset. From my perspective, the options are unlimited.”
The scholarship was created to honor the memory of Sean Simon Williams, who completed the Rutgers MBA program in 2017.
“Our family wanted to have something that would allow him to be remembered and something that would positively impact somebody,” said Sean’s father, Mark Williams.
Williams was at a crossroads when he started the MBA program. For most of his life, he had wanted to be an attorney. As an undergraduate, he excelled at the University of Richmond and afterward, at Fordham Law School.
When he graduated from law school, Williams passed the bar on his first try. But his graduation from Fordham coincided with a historic downturn in the legal industry. After doing document review for a time, Williams followed his mother’s advice and applied to the Rutgers Full-Time MBA Program.
“When he got into the Rutgers program, he just blossomed,” his father said. “All the angst that he had over the whole law school experience seemed to dissipate. He got a job that we all thought was going to put him on his way to a career.”
Williams died suddenly from an undiagnosed heart condition in Las Vegas where he had traveled to attend a work conference. He was employed by ArtSci, a small consulting firm that works closely with the pharmaceutical industry. He was also engaged to be married.
The endowed scholarship in his memory will provide selected students entering the Full-Time MBA Program with as much as $15,000 a year. The endowment was created by the Williams family and through generous contributions from extended family members, family friends and Mark Williams’ work colleagues.
Dean Vera, director of the Rutgers MBA Office of Career Management, worked with Williams and helped to review candidates for the scholarship in his name. Vera said he had a short list of criteria.
In addition to a career changer, he wanted the recipient to be someone willing to be coached. “I want the person to be someone who reminds me of Sean, someone who understands that there’s hard work ahead,” Vera said.
Vera said Rofail has all the enthusiasm and energy to achieve his goal. “Sean had the same outlook and resolve,” he said.
Rofail graduated from Rutgers University-Newark in 2020 after studying neuroscience and biology. After graduation, he worked as a pharmacy technician. A first-generation college student, Rofail said he was always encouraged by his parents to study medicine and become a doctor. Yet, he always had a strong interest in business.
Rofail said when he was notified that he would receive the scholarship honoring Williams, he searched for information to read more about him.
"It’s amazing to have this scholarship,” he said. “I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Brittany Hadden, who was engaged to Sean Williams at the time of his death, said the Rutgers MBA program gave him direction. “It was the happiest I had ever seen him,” Hadden said.
“I think he would be really pleased that something good is coming out of this, that the scholarship will be helpful to people who are career changers like him,” she said.
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