When a Cohort Unites For a Cause
- by Vivian Nabeta
As the Class of 2008 celebrates its 10-year Reunion, Vivian Nabeta WG08 shares the story of classmates who bonded at Wharton and later united to change lives.
Twelve years ago, my journey with the incredibles was afoot. Pre-term was a bustling week of meet and greets, Wharton pub inductions, an outdoorsy learning team retreat, and much more. I was an insular environmental engineer wondering how in heaven I was among such seemingly more accomplished humans. Up until then, I had been comfortable in my world of scientists and engineers. Successful as we were in our own right, rubbing shoulders with million dollar dealmakers and Wall Streeters who LBO-ed this and NVP-ed that was incredibly intimidating.
Nursing the ensuing hypertension, I met Russell Goldman G08 WG08. The connection was instant and I knew then that my recently unveiled Cohort D was going to be all right. On the surface, we had nothing significant in common, and yet we got along like a house on fire. He emerged as one of my closest friends from Wharton. Armed with our MBAs, we took this friendship to the outside world. I carved out my space at the United Nations—comfortably spitting out buzzwords, hypertensive feelings a distant memory—and Russell’s creative mastery sent him to Brazil and Germany, where he churned out super start-ups.
In August of 2015, our friendship was tested when I lost my sister suddenly to Type 1 diabetes and endured the most torturous months of my life. I was emotionally spent, recovering from two paralyzing breakdowns, and throughout it all, Russell was by my side. As the saying goes, hard times will always reveal true friends. It is amazing to consider that a Jewish kid from a nuclear family was able to truly understand me, an African from a large global family, but he absolutely did. When I decided to start the Sonia Nabeta Foundation (SNF)—dedicated in my sister’s honor to children in Africa that are afflicted with T1D—Russell rolled up his sleeves. His unrivaled strategic mind was instrumental in helping me found and shape the SNF.
Enter another cohort D-er, Nitin Chopra WG08, a tech genius with an eye for detail and an ability to explain complex ideas in basic layman terms. The clarity and precision with which Nitin spoke made him easy to be around and divine to listen to when classes got too “foreign language” for me. Originally from the Buckeye state, he left successful careers in software engineering and investment banking in order to chase a dream that was never far from his heart—serving in the medical field. With humility and hard work in equal portions, nothing was too big or too small for Nitin. In his second year of medical school, he didn’t bat an eye when he heard about SNF and its diabetes-centric goal. He’s both CEO and janitor—no view too big, no detail too small—and this is the motto with which he approaches his volunteer work at the start-up foundation.
Rajat Mishra WG08 was also a tech evangelist in Cohort D. Handpicked by Microsoft, he was lifted from his home country of India and brought all the way to Seattle. He had grown up surrounded by abject poverty, and never forgot his humble beginnings. Whether it was in the halls of Huntsman, or the Wharton Pub, Rajat’s intention to transform his community was always front and center. And he did just that. Not long after graduating, he married his Wharton sweetheart, Deepti Juturu WG08 and together they went to India and “adopted” 50 orphans from across the country through their involvement in the Adruta Children Home. So it was no surprise that when he heard about the needs of African children with Type 1 diabetes, my phone rang. He didn’t just want to contribute money and be on his way. He wanted a holistic approach that would enable the children to live beyond their medical condition. It wasn’t enough for him to provide health care—he wanted education and well-being. He didn’t want to help one child; he wanted to help ten. And he didn’t want to help in an isolated way; he wanted to watch these kids grow and become contributing members of society.
Rajat and Deepti championed the SNF kids—our “Mishra Warriors”—with an induction donation of $10,000 and are exemplary citizens of the global community in which we all live. Rajat is as generous as he is goal-oriented. Not too long ago, he was recognized as one of Wharton Magazine’s “40 Under 40.” I wasn’t surprised.
So here we are celebrating our 10-year reunion, and I can tell similar stories of generosity, kindness, and global citizenship from so many D-ers like Rafael Tovar G08 WG08, Darshan Prabhu WG08, Sabri Hamade WG08, Ashish Bhatia WG08, Pranjal Shah WG08, Sean Brenan L08 WG08, Angela Arnold WG08, TR Newcomb WG08, Mojisola Shoyinka WG08, Jordan Tate WG08, Michael Donofrio WG08, Biren Bhandari W00 WG08, Mackenzie Mudgett WG08, Mir Haque WG08, and many more.
Two years after the birth of the Sonia Nabeta Foundation, it is on the heels of a sizeable grant, has secured a major syringe donation from Becton Dickinson, has hosted several camps for children with Type 1 diabetes in Uganda, and is well on its way to hosting its first camp outside Uganda this summer in Ghana. SNF represents the very best character endemic to Cohort D and the Wharton community.