In Memoriam: Paden Shultz


Brian Munoz | @brianmmunoz

Photo provided by Brian Munoz.

On the night of January 30th, 2023, SIU lost an unforgettable soul who was loved by everyone who knew him: Paden Schultz. He was a sophomore zoology student who was very active in campus life as a member of the Marching Salukis, Pep Band, Dawg Pound, TRiO, and a member and mentor in the Saluki Summer Bridge program. He aspired to make a career in tiger rescue and conservation and was frequently seen talking about these large cats with many of his friends and classmates. 

Paden Shultz was a friend to many and a light to all that will forever leave an impression on SIU and its students. He made countless friends during his time here and always knew how to light up a room with his fun-loving personality and unmatched humor. He would always take time out of his day to talk to someone and consistently worked to try to help others and improve any melancholy mood one might have. Despite having health issues and injuries, he never let anything keep him down and was resilient until the end. 

Many of his friends and classmates have come forward to recount memories and notable feelings that will always stick to each and every one of our minds. One student who was in band with Paden says, “he always insisted on marching and participating with us regardless of his sprained ankle which put him on crutches for most of the 2022 season.” 


He was seen walking around on crutches for so long that he began to decorate them in accordance with the seasons and holidays, his most notable decorations being the black Halloween themed garland wrapped around the crutches with skulls and the multicolored lights for Christmas. 

“He was very dramatic and charming and always had the sassiest thing to say and knew how to make everyone laugh, he always knew how to lighten the mood,” his band mate recounted. 

Another band member similarly remembers Paden’s unique and determined personality.

“When Paden was on crutches and wished to play with us but couldn’t, he still came to every practice and performance with a smile on his face and crutches decorated,” Lily [Last Name Redacted] said. 

She wanted to make note that “his personality and smile could brighten anyone’s day” and he will always be remembered with a shining smile on his face. 

Many others were familiar with him because of his participation in the Summer Bridge program in both years of 2021 and 2022.

“From our first encounter, I noticed that he was very cheerful, funny, spunky, sassy, and down to earth, we had classes nearly every semester and I could always count on him to make our classes more enjoyable,” Nina Davis says. 


She and Paden shared many times together and “would ride bikes together to the dorms after class all the time and had many conversations about future endeavors and career interests.” 

Whether or not the two had seen each other, they would always take the time to catch up and have some laughs. 

“I’m so glad I was able to say my last ‘hi’ to him before he passed and he was a light to everyone he met,” Nina said.

Paden lived in the Felts dorm hall on West campus where many others got to know him. “He always had these most extravagant inflatable outdoor things he would put outside his door for every season or holiday,” said one former neighbor, who always looked forward to seeing these fun decorations after breaks, with the most notable being a giant ‘It’ inflatable during Halloween. She followed up by saying, “Paden was loved by so many on the floor and even though I don’t live there anymore I know Felts floor 2 is hurting right now.” 

Another former neighbor from Felts said that “Paden was such an energetic odd-ball in the best way possible, he was a lover of animals and of the arts and I’ll forever remember all the cursed ceramic objects he created from impossible mugs to drink from to a toilet plant pot,” which happened to be a fan favorite amongst his Felts dorm members. 

“He was a very special and unique individual that no one could replicate, always stepping to the beat of his own drum and was a friend to so many people,” Elyse Dilks said. 

Paden truly was a friend to everyone, and even those who were simply friendly with him commented that “Paden was a stand up individual and bright, fun, and lighthearted even with a 10 pound boot around his foot, who was a welcome addition to every group outing,” one classmate of his said. Another pointed out that while they didn’t know him that well, “he was so fun to talk to and could tell he was an all around great guy.” His spirit reached everyone he saw, whether or not they were close.

There were many others, including myself, that knew him through the zoology program and had classes with him. I distinctly remember my very first week at SIU, walking into an entry level biology class and getting greeted by this incredibly outgoing and sweet individual, Paden. This was the first time someone had acknowledged me in a class as an equal in all my time as a student, and this pattern continued in two other classes, most notably my zoology seminar class last semester. He would always turn around in his seat to talk to me and consistently made sure I was feeling comfortable. He didn’t know it, but he helped me more than words could say, and having someone talk to me after never experiencing this kindness before in a very hard period in my life was life-changing. Although I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me as well as many others, thank you. Thank you for being here for me when no one else was my friend, I’ll miss you.

Paden Schultz had two memorial services, one on campus Friday, Feb. 3rd for students and faculty and another at Newman Catholic Center on Sunday, Feb. 5th for the community. Hundreds attended both services and paid their respects to him and his family and friends. Please seek help if you are struggling and do not ignore your mental health during this time. SIU Counseling and Psychological Services professionals are available for student assistance by calling (618)-453-5371. The national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached by texting or calling 988.

“We will forever remember you Paden, Rest in Peace.” – Elyse Dilks.

Staff reporter and photographer Mo Collar can be reached at [email protected] or on instagram @m0.alexander.