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Professor Jim Schorr leaves a legacy of social entrepreneurship

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Professor Jim Schorr leaves a legacy of social entrepreneurship

(Photo Credit Vanderbilt University)

(Photo Credit Vanderbilt University)

(Photo Credit Vanderbilt University)

(Photo Credit Vanderbilt University)

Eva Pace

Professor Jim Schorr passed away Feb. 11, leaving a legacy of social entrepreneurship at Vanderbilt and beyond.

After coming to Vanderbilt for his MBA in 1992, Schorr began his first venture into entrepreneurship in launching the organization Net Impact which aimed to make strides in management education. He drove led the company 10 years as director and board chairman.

Schorr taught at UC Berkeley before moving to Nashville in 2009, spearheading the social entrepreneurship program that exists at Vanderbilt today. While he was primarily a professor at the Owen Graduate School of Management, since 2012 he has been teaching undergraduates in the HODC Social Entrepreneurship: Principles and Application course. This evolved from an elective into a core Community Development class in the HOD curriculum.

Paul Speer, Chair of the Human and Organizational Development department, and his wife had the opportunity to grow close to Schorr and his family. Speer described the uniquely generous relationship the late professor had with his students, as it was not unusual for him to continue keeping in touch with graduates years after they finished his course.

“A lot of his students ended up developing social enterprises as products of his class,” Speer said. “He really was so helpful to our undergrads.”

One of these students was  Ravi Patel, who now works as a consultant at McKinsey & Company after earning his both his bachelor’s and medical degree from Vanderbilt. Patel reached out to Schorr seeking guidance in launching his business plan for Nashville Mobile Market, a company that provides fresh foods to low-access neighborhoods, and Schorr went above and beyond taking him under his wing, he said.

Furthermore, Schorr helped Patel take one of his business school classes without a grade or credit in order to focus on the business plan for his new company. “Even after the class, Jim continued to reach out and selflessly wanted to make sure the company was succeeding for the community that it served.”

Patel also emphasized Schorr’s selflessness as both a professor and mentor, abandoning formalities to ensure a true relationship could be built with his students.

“I honestly have no idea how he had any personal time as he was always available and engaged with any concerns we brought to him,” he said.

Schorr was teaching an undergraduate course last semester before taking leave due to his illness. His course was taken over by Professor Jeremy Payne, who despite not having the opportunity to connect with Schorr, noted his impact even beyond Vanderbilt’s campus.

“He was truly an inspirational figurehead in the social entrepreneurship world, and a loss to both that community as well and here at Vandy,” he said.

Speer also noted how remarkable Schorr was as an individual, apart from his professional successes. “He was exceptional, genuinely such a kind guy,” he said. “Jim had an agile and creative mind that was marked by his can-do spirit.”

VU’s Benton Chapel will be holding a memorial service for Mr. Schorr on Saturday, March 16th at 11 a.m. Afterwards, there will be a reception held by the Owen Graduate School of Management.

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