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The Columns: Alumni Reviews


Scholarship at Wharton School honors fallen Marine

by Gabrielle Maxey

Captain Robert M. Secher

Capt. Robert Secher loved being a Marine and also loved learning. He also understood the parallels between the military and business.

Tragically, the U of M alumnus was killed by a sniper’s bullet in 2006 while conducting combat operations in Iraq’s Anbar province.

Secher had been instrumental in developing the Quantico Leadership Venture, an innovative collaboration between the Marine Corps’ Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Va., and the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. To repay his contributions, officials at the Wharton School established a scholarship honoring Secher (BA ’98).

The popular outdoor-based course teaches Wharton graduate students Marine-style leadership principles and team-building skills they can use in business. The venture is intended to help participants improve their ability to think strategically, communicate effectively and act decisively.

The Captain Robert M. Secher Scholarship will be awarded to one Marine Corps officer annually and will enable the recipient to attend a Wharton Executive Education Course. The courses typically cost thousands of dollars.

More than 1,000 Wharton MBA students have participated in the Leadership Venture since it was created eight years ago. Approximately 500 students apply for the 180 spaces available each year. “

Robert was instrumental in starting the program,” said Dennis Santare, a former Marine who is now with the Wharton School. “A lot of credit goes to him. It’s a really strong course, one of the most popular we have.”

Secher had a passion for studying history. He could recount all of the major battles of the Civil War. Secher also was a student of the Holocaust, in which members of his father’s family perished. His favorite books were on ancient Rome. He was especially fascinated by the centurions, who commanded from the front lines and took pride in leading by example.
Elke Morris, mother of Capt. Robert Secher,
receives her son's posthumous Bronze Star.
Photo by Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal.

His father, Dr. Pierre Secher, was surprised but pleased when he learned about the scholarship. “My son was an avid reader,” said Secher, former chair of Political Science at the U of M. “He read books mainly about Greek and Roman military history. He was very concerned with educating soldiers and people in general.”

At the U of M, Robert served in the Navy ROTC program. He earned a degree in political science in 1998 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marines. Secher was promoted to first lieutenant in 2000 and captain in 2003.

He enlisted in the Marines when he was just 17. Secher served on the Afghanistan border after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and later asked for a transfer to the front lines in Iraq. He ended up in the insurgents’ largest stronghold, Anbar province. Secher had one of the toughest jobs in Iraq: training inexperienced Iraqi recruits to take over the fight against the militants. He often found the job frustrating and discouraging, but in e-mails and letters home he expressed his fondness and respect for the Iraqi trainees.

Secher was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with Valor in November. He was cited for leading or serving in more than 200 combined convoys and 50 combat patrols in the heart of the Sunni insurgency. Secher’s parents were joined by 75 family members, friends and fellow Marines at the ceremony in Memphis. “

I am proud of my son. He did a good job wherever he was sent,” said Robert’s mother, Elke Morris. “Most of all he wanted to be a leader of his troops. He was just a patriotic American.”

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