Paul Walker Schaffel was a son, a grandson, a brother, a nephew, a cousin, an uncle, and a dear friend. Through the work of The Foundation we will keep Paul’s memory and dreams alive. Among Paul’s last wishes was the creation of a foundation in his name so that his story could shed light on what it means to be a young person diagnosed with cancer.
Paul Walker Schaffel was diagnosed with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL) during the fall semester of his senior year at Wesleyan University, December 2011. Rather than taking a leave of absence from school, Paul continued his studies at home while undergoing treatment. With the support of his family and close friends, Paul took his final exams, completed his award-winning thesis, and was able to attend graduation ceremonies. Paul graduated with honors and accepted admission to Harvard Law School. Paul never made it to Harvard. Paul was 22 years old when he passed away on September 16, 2012.
During Paul’s illness he made it clear to those around him that he did not want to be defined by his disease. There was so much more to Paul… 22 years worth of experiences and wonderful accomplishments, and unwavering loyalty and support to his family and friends. Even as Paul’s prognosis worsened, Paul remained a source of strength, humor and love to everyone around him, his astonishing character showing through even through the end.
Paul grew up in New York City with his mother Ellen, where Paul attended the 92nd Street Y, The Dalton School, and Wesleyan University. Paul, along with his family, traveled the world, attended summer camps, and played sports. True to his city, Paul was a passionate Yankees fan and attended games starting at age 3.
Paul loved to travel, not only with his family, but also on his own, when Paul nurtured an independent streak and desire to challenge himself with new places and experiences. During high school, Paul spent a summer in the south of France as an exchange student living in Aix-en-Provence, and in college studied abroad in Stockholm. His exposure to politics and globalization classes and his Swedish friends and host family broadened his view of the world and spurred a conversion to vegetarianism, a decision he wrote about in his law school application personal essay. Paul received a fellowship to conduct research at the British Library in London for his thesis, concerning Indian student radicals in Great Britain at the turn of the 20th century, which resulted in an award-winning paper. As Paul worked on his own project during his senior year, before and after his diagnosis, Paul edited the Wesleyan journal Historical Narratives, and was a member of Psi Chi, the Psychology honors society.
Summers were a special time for Paul—many spent at Brant Lake Camp in the Adirondacks. As Paul got older Paul learned to appreciate lazy days by the pool at his home in Remsenburg, Long Island. But for Paul, lazy might be defined by sitting in a lounge chair while studying for the LSATS or pouring through the pages of a novel. Paul always remained focused on his studies and his future. The weekends might have been a time for lounging, but during his college years, Paul had some remarkable internships. After working in the Time Warner Center for the Nancy Grace Show, Paul’s interest in the law grew, as his fascination with technology did at TigerSpike, an iPhone and iPad app startup in Chelsea.
Paul lived a remarkable life, and because of that he deserves a remarkable legacy. There are innumerable quirks and characteristics that defined Paul, which defies description, his quick, analytical mind, exercised daily in New York Times crossword puzzles; his sarcastic sense of humor; his voracious appetite for reading; his incredible attention to the ones Paul loved, materialized in thoughtful and surprising birthday gifts, which Paul never forgot.
Most importantly, Paul’s future was cut short, and we will never know all of the accomplishments and growth that would have continued for him had he not lost his battle with cancer. Those who love and remember him, however, do know that his example of perseverance, determination, and desire to make a mark in the world which will be carried on through The Paul Foundation, which will enable him even now to influence the future in the positive way Paul undeniably would have in life.