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Penn employee Benjamin Francis Rivell, 28, died from an "accidental drug overdose" on March 20.

An Air Force veteran, Rivell worked for four years as an information technology security analyst at Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science and was working toward obtaining a graduate degree in computer science at Penn, reported.

Benjamin Francis Rivell

An obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer listed Rivell as a graduate student at Penn, but he is not listed on Penn Directory. University administrators were not immediately available to confirm whether he was formally admitted as a student. 

Rivell served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and later as a computer operator at Balad Air Base in Iraq, before being honorably discharged in 2010.

Rivell's parents told that they wanted to tell their son's story so people could learn from his experience. 

“We really feel people need to talk about this, if being honest and open is going to save a young person’s life. Ben was open. He knew he had an addiction problem. He fought fiercely with a lot of help from the Caron Foundation, and he would want the story to be told to help,” his mom, Laura Dean Douglas Rivell, said. 

Rivell's death follows a series of others in this academic year alone. 

A first-year Penn Law student, Jonathan Lumpkin, died in his apartment this January, just after College sophomore Blaze Bernstein died by homicide at the start of the calendar year during winter break. 

During the fall semester, campus was struck by the deaths of College senior Nicholas Moya, Penn Vet student Brett Cooper, Wharton senior Henry Rogers, Penn Law student Justin Hamano, and College freshman William Steinberg, who died in a plane accident with his family.

A department chair in Penn’s School of Dental Medicine, Ricardo Teles, died by suicide on Dec. 11.


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