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Student Saves Family from Fire, Seeks Help Restoring Their Belongings

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 30, 2015) — A University at Albany MBA student from Schenevus, N.Y., who saved a family of four as their house burned down on January 8, has been called a hero. He would rather refocus the attention from himself to raise money to help replace the family’s belongings.

To date, more than $23,000 has been raised toward the $50,000 goal on a GoFundMe page established for the Bartlett family, also of Schenevus.

UAlbany MBA student Shawn Sperbeck

UAlbany MBA student Shawn Sperbeck got everyone out safely. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

UAlbany MBA student Shawn Sperbeck, 24, was driving home from his friend’s house when he took the longer route home. He recalls how it transpired, “I was driving down Main Street and saw a huge cloud of smoke. As I turned the corner by the Quickway I saw the fire,” he said.

Now he is seeking to help the Bartlett family of four get back on their feet. “They lost everything,” he said.

The fire started in the back of the house. By the time Sperbeck arrived, the flames had spread to the kitchen. He pounded on the door until the youngest son awoke up and got the rest of the family up. Sperbeck could see the fire burning through the electrical wires above the house, and learned there was a large propane tank out back.

“There were four people in the house and all were evacuated. I got them out the side front door and I am so glad and lucky to have been there and assist them to safety,” he said.

The father of the Bartlett family is Jon Bartlett, a SUNY Oneonta police officer who once worked for UAlbany’s UPD. Bartlett was a UPD officer from December 1996 to March 2000. “He was an excellent officer,” said UPD Chief Frank Wiley.

For Sperbeck, helping people has always been a calling.  “That’s the way I was raised. My parents encouraged me to help anyone in any way I can. My parents…if they saw someone on the street, they’d give them a meal,” said Sperbeck.

“Being a firefighter, coach, and part of the Business School at UAlbany have all prepared me for stressful situations and to think clearly and logically in the face of adversity,” he said. “Truth be told, no matter what, I would have run into the house to save the family. I would do anything for anyone no matter the circumstance. I like to believe I put the well-being of others above my own.”

Sperbeck, a member of the Schenevus Fire Department from 2009-2012, completed basic firefighting training through the department and was also part of the Emergency Medical Services. He majored in history with a minor in education at UAlbany, graduating summa cum laude in 2013. His expected graduation date from the MBA program is May 2016.

“I felt as though it was fate for me to come home at such a time and not stay over at my friend’s house and to take the long way home,” said Sperbeck. “I had spent the day car and apartment hunting before hanging with my friend and cousin, and for me to leave at that exact time and be able to be there for this is remarkable.”

Sperbeck has been noticed in the classroom as well. He was inducted into the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society at UAlbany in fall 2012.

School of Business Professor Susan Pedo taught Sperbeck in her class. “Shawn is a responsible and conscientious student who works well with his peers. He exemplifies the intelligence and compassion that we hope will guide our students in their personal and professional lives,” said Pedo.

School of Business Professor Peter Duchessi said, “Shawn was in my MBA course last semester. He is an outstanding young man who is engaged with everything. I am not surprised by his taking charge of the situation.”

Although he found a car, Sperbeck is still seeking an apartment in Guilderland, just for the spring semester through mid-May.  

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