University of Pennsylvania Student’s Death Ruled a Suicide

Stephen Kyle Wilshusen was a doctoral engineering student.

Photo via Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute

Photo via Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute

University of Pennsylvania engineering student Stephen Kyle Wilshusen killed himself on December 31st making him the tenth University of Pennsylvania student to die by suicide in less than three years, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian.

Wilshusen’s death was announced on Monday by University of Pennsylvania engineering dean Vijay Kumar. He was in his first year of doctoral studies at the school.

“In the short period of six months, he established himself as a creative researcher, an independent thinker, and a friendly, collaborative member of the agriculture robotics team,” wrote Kumar in an email to students. “Many of us knew him and worked closely with him, and we are in shock. News like this always saddens us, but the loss of a young life with so much promise is especially devastating. Our thoughts and prayers are with Kyle’s family and friends.”

According to the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office, Wilshusen’s death was ruled suicide by asphyxiation. He was 25 years old.

In 2015, after six University of Pennsylvania students died by suicide over just 15 months, the school released a report about the psychological health of the campus and what could be done to improve it.

The report was prepared by a task force organized by University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann. The task force concluded that the school’s campus had a perfectionist culture and identified a phenomenon known as Penn Face, where students are pressured to act like life is perfect when in fact they may be suffering inside.

Nationally, the problem of suicide on campus is not unique to the University of Pennsylvania, although locally that would seem to be the case. During the 2014-2015 school year, four University of Tulane students died by suicide as did at least three at Appalachian State, while six Cornell students died by suicide in the 2009-2010 school year, according to the New York Times. During one academic year in the 2000s, several New York University students jumped to their deaths.

The University of Pennsylvania has not commented on Wilshunsen’s death.

For confidential support if you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Learn about the warning signs of suicide at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.