At the Harvard Business School Class Day ceremony Wednesday, faculty remembered Nathan Bihlmaier by reading the essay he wrote in his application to the school.

The essay was read by Youngme Moon, a professor who stood vigil with the family while police searched Portland Harbor for the Kansas native after he disappeared early Sunday morning in the Old Port.

In the essay, Bihlmaier said that coming from a small town in Kansas would be an uncommon path to Harvard, but that he was inspired by a quote from the late Chicago architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham, who said “Make no little plans.”

Bihlmaier chose that as his motto, said Brian Kenny, a Harvard Business School spokesman. Bihlmaier also talked of his love of work and desire to take on new challenges.

“It was beautifully written and a poignant thing to hear his words and have him present, even though he couldn’t be here personally,” Kenny said.

Police recovered Bihlmaier’s body Tuesday in the water alongside Custom House Wharf. An autopsy Wednesday morning determined that he died from accidental drowning. The state medical examiner has taken blood samples, which could show his blood alcohol content, although the medical examiner had not decided Wednesday whether to test for alcohol.

Bihlmaier and two friends had come to Portland to celebrate their graduation from Harvard Business School. The two days of ceremonies culminate with the conferring of degrees today. Bihlmaier’s family will receive his diploma on his behalf.

Bihlmaier and his friends were staying at the Hilton Garden Inn and had gone out on the town Saturday. He was told to leave Ri Ra Irish Pub at 11:20 p.m. Saturday because he had been drinking too much, and at that point became separated from his friends, police said.

Scott St. Ours, security manager at Ri Ra, told WMTW-TV that Bihlmaier was not visibly intoxicated, but did stumble over some band equipment. He was then asked to leave the bar.

St. Ours told the station that he walked with Bihlmaier for a block and a half and twice offered to call him a taxi. St. Ours said Bilhmaier refused and said he was staying nearby.

Bihlmaier communicated by cellphone with his friends as late as 12:15 a.m. Sunday, but they couldn’t find each other and the friends returned to the hotel room, police said.

Bihlmaier’s phone stopped working at 1 a.m. Police said the signal was traced to the Maine State Pier, but that triangulating the signal is only accurate to about a mile, so he could have been anywhere along the waterfront.

Bihlmaier’s family — his parents and his wife, who is pregnant with their first child — remained in Portland after Tuesday’s discovery, waiting for the autopsy report. Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck briefed the family on the findings.

At family members’ request, Sauschuck showed them where Bihlmaier’s body was found — “an attempt to provide as much information for closure as possible,” he said.

Police continue to review video footage taken Saturday night and Sunday morning in that area of the Old Port in an effort to determine exactly how Bihlmaier ended up in the water.

The family planned to leave Portland for Cambridge on Wednesday to participate in today’s commencement.

Wednesday was Class Day at Harvard Business School, a commencement event organized by students where they arrange for a speaker and distribute awards to faculty.

“The dean in his opening remarks acknowledged the fact Nate wasn’t here,” Kenny said, “and how … even through this time of great sorrow and grievance for the HBS community, Nate would have wanted us to celebrate the achievement of everybody here and the community should feel good.”

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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