Obituary: Shayel Patnaik, student in Arts & Sciences, 21

Scholarship fund created in his honor

Shayel Patnaik helped young people through Each One Teach One, the College Prep Program and College Access Mentoring.

Shayel Mohanty Patnaik, a senior majoring in history in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, died Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. He was 21.

Further details aren’t being released out of respect for his family.

Patnaik’s life will be honored at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge on the Danforth Campus. Patnaik came to the university from Memphis, Tenn.

Patnaik will be remembered for his kindness and service to young people, said Julie Shimabukuro, director of admissions. Patnaik worked in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions as a campus tour guide and helped interview prospective students.

“He was enthusiastic and generous and an amazing listener,” Shimabukuro said. “You would see him on a bench having a great conversation with a student, getting to know them and letting them know what was special about this community. There are students here today because of the warmth he showed them. They connected with Shayel and could see him as a future classmate and friend.”  

Patnaik also was committed to serving low-income children in the St. Louis region. He tutored elementary school students through the Each One Teach One program and prepared East St. Louis high school students for the college-application process through College Access Mentoring. He also served as a program assistant for the College Prep Program, which prepares talented, first-generation students from the St. Louis region for life on a college campus.

Leah Merrifield, associate vice chancellor for community engagement and St. Louis college readiness initiatives, said College Prep scholars were drawn to Patnaik’s joy and energy. Whenever he arrived for lunch, they would call out a chorus of “Shayels!”

Patnaik’s life will be honored at 2 p.m. Sept. 30 in the Women’s Building.

“It was like that show ‘Cheers,’ when Norm walked in,” Merrifield said. “He authentically cared about young people who may not have had all of the opportunities that he had. We walked the talk, and our scholars felt that in everything he did, whether he was helping them in a lab or joking with them with after class. He had a servant’s spirit.”

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton announced that the university and the Patnaik family created the Shayel Patnaik/College Prep Endowed Scholarship, which will provide annual support to a College Prep graduate enrolling at Washington University. Those who wish to contribute to the scholarship may send a check payable to Washington University, memo line: The Shayel Patnaik/College Prep Endowed Scholarship, Campus Box 1082, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, Mo., 63130-4899, or donate online (in the drop-down menu, choose “other funds” and type in the name).

“This will be a lasting tribute to Shayel’s commitment to helping young people learn and grow and achieve their full potential,” Wrighton said.

Wrighton encouraged students who would like supportive counseling to use the online student portal,, or to call 314-935-6695. Faculty and staff may access the Employee Assistance Program.

Roderick Smith, a senior and fellow College Prep Program assistant, said the concern Patnaik showed to College Prep scholars extended to his fellow program assistants and classmates. That’s just how he lived his life, Smith said.

He remembered the first time they went out to eat. Patnaik asked the server how he was — and meant it.

“He wasn’t just being polite,” Smith said. “He genuinely cared about people. He approached every interaction that way, as an opportunity to make a connection.”

Patnaik is survived by his mother, Munalisa Mohanty, his stepfather, Lyle Bohlman, his father, Bidhan Patnaik, his younger sister, Yasmeen Patnaik, and his grandmother, Prativa Mohanty.

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