29-year-old HTM professor loses battle with cancer

Courtesy Photo / gvsu.edu
Benjamin Mutnick

Courtesy Photo / gvsu.edu Benjamin Mutnick

Anya Zentmeyer

“This all started with what was supposed to be a regular basketball injury. I don’t think its karma, just a fluke, that I am only 28 but got hurt playing in an over-30 league.”

That is how Grand Valley State University’s hospitality and tourism management professor Benjamin Mutnick began his blog in February of 2010 when he was first diagnosed with bone cancer.

On Nov. 29, Mutnick died at age 29 due to complications from the cancer.

“B’s fight against cancer came to an official close,” the Nov. 29 blog entry by his wife Lindsey read. “And it’s not because he quit – because he didn’t. It’s just the cancer was too strong and too advanced. We simply ran out of options.”

In the blog Mutnick updated consistently throughout his 9-month battle, he spoke about the toils of day-to-day life with unending patience, acceptance and optimism. He used his wit to combat sadness and only his humor rivaled the severity of his pain.

“Ben was a genuine and generous person who had a zest for life and always had a positive outlook on everything,” said Dr. Robert Nash, Mutnick’s colleague in the hospitality and tourism management department. “He had a wonderful and witty dry sense of humor and brought warmth to any room he walked into. In life, there are all too few genuinely nice people, and I count it as a privilege that I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of those people.”

GVSU student Raelynn Breitfeild said she will never forget her favorite class of the semester, HTM Law, which Mutnick taught with a smile despite the darkness that shrouded him.

“You could tell he genuinely cared about his students and teaching,” Breitfeild said. “It was hard to watch him battle his cancer, but he was a fighter. He never let it bring him down. He was a great inspiration and role model for his students.”

Paul Stansbie, hospitality and tourism management department chair, said HTM has set up a memorial fund in Mutnick’s honor, and after the new year, the department will connect with the family to decide where the funds are best suited.

All donations can be directed to the Benjamin Mutnick Memorial Fund, courtesy of the HTM department at GVSU, B-3-226 Mackinac Hall.

“He had a passion for teaching and was very popular with his students due to his sense of humor and an ability to make ‘dry’ subjects more engaging,” Stansbie said. “His unselfish approach to life and the courage he demonstrated in hiding the severity of his illness from us all was to be admired.”

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