Just days before he was to graduate with an MBA from Harvard Business School, Nathan Bihlmaier was pulled out of the city harbor today (May 22) by local police in Portland, Maine. The 31-year-old student would have received his MBA degree this Thursday at Harvard and in June would have become a father for the first time.
At his graduation, he had planned to break the news of his wife Nancy’s pregnancy to his visiting parents who were to fly from their hometown in Kansas.
Bihlmaier was last seen early Sunday morning after celebrating his upcoming graduation with friends at an Irish Pub near the harbor. According to police reports, Bihlmaier was asked to leave the Ri Ra pub shortly before midnight on Sunday after becoming intoxicated. He soon became separated from his friends and didn’t return to his hotel.
Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria said Tuesday that the death of Bihlmaier will cast a shadow over the school’s commencement activities this week. “It’s a day that will now be forever tinged with sadness,” Nohria said at a news conference in Maine. “This is a tragic moment for our community. We’re a tight-knit community preparing for a graduation. Nathan was supposed to be one of 900 receiving a diploma. We were all hoping this would be a day Nathan could celebrate. Instead, we are here trying to grasp this unspeakable tragedy.”
Dean Nohria and Associate Dean Youngme Moon had come to Portland from Boston on Monday with several students and family members to join the search and comfort Bihlmaier’s wife and family. The graduate school hosted a prayer service on Bihlmaier’s behalf Monday afternoon. Brian Kenny, a spokesman for Harvard Business School, said Bihlmaier was a popular student and some 18 to 20 fellow students drove to Portland to help. “His friends describe him as really one top-notch guy,” Kenny told a local newspaper.
The discovery of the body ended a three-day search, much of which was conducted underwater by local, state and federal authorities. Police apparently identified Bihlmaier by his clothing — a black windbraker, blue khakis, a grey T-shirt and a blue-webbed belt, which witnesses and security cameras confirmed he was wearing when he went missing.
NOT YOUR TYPICAL CONSULTING OR I-BANKING MBA AT HARVARD
Bihlmaier was not your typical Harvard student. A native of Osborne, a small farming community of about 1,400 people in north central Kansas, he graduated from the University of Kansas with an undergraduate degree in business in 2003. He went to work for Cerner Corp., an information technology provider to the health care industry. He quickly moved through four promotions at Cerner, going from a “solution delivery consultant” in Kansas City to a “business development program manager” in Boston.
Bihlmaier enrolled in Harvard’s MBA program in the fall of 2010 and was assigned to section C. He married Nancy Ho just three days after Christmas that year and then did his summer internship last year with the Office of the National Coordination for Health IT in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Bihlmaier recently landed a job with Optum, an information and technology-enabled health services company, in charge of client partnerships and business development in the Northeast region.
Dean Nohria described Bihlmaier as an “upstanding” student who was “widely regarded as a lively” and “gregarious” member of the school community. “We were proud to have Nate as a student at Harvard Business School,” he told reporters.
‘HIS GENUINE CARING NATURE, AUTHENTIC CREATIVITY, AND HIS IMPECCABLE INTEGRITY STAND OUT’
In an endorsement on Bihlmaier’s LinkedIn profile, a former boss at Cerner heaped extraordinary praise on him: ““I have had the amazing privilege of working with Nate for over 4 years, From my first workings with Nate while in presentation training, I have been astonished with his abilities to communicate with clarity and passion. After moving into sales, Nate has taken situations that appeared to be impossible, and because he believed a client would be best served by what he had for them, went through extraordinary measures to break through barriers. His reward has been clients who buy from him, know he is supporting their needs, and trust him implicitly. Among the long list of Nate’s great qualities, his genuine caring nature, authentic creativity, his passion, and his impeccable integrity stand out to me. It is always an honor and a pleasure to work with Nate on any project. I know it is going to be well planned, well orchestrated, worth while and fun – and always win-win!”
Bihlmaier is survived by his wife, Nancy, who is pregnant with the couple’s first child. Bihlmaier was “thrilled about the prospect of being a dad,” Harvard Business School spokesman Kenny told ABC News.
Police told the Boston Herald that there was no indication of foul play and the body would be autopsied to determine the cause of death.