fbpx Marlin Bottex | Phillips Exeter Academy

Marlin Bottex

Year of Graduation: 
2003
Marlin Bottex

"My personal check is to see what’s going on around me and what can I do to make it better.”

When Marlin Bottex ’03 found herself with some time between graduation from the Wharton School of Business and a West Coast consulting job, she chose to volunteer at a Syrian refugee camp. “I knew I wanted to get involved,” she says. “It was a way to give back to the global community in my unique gap of free time.”

Bottex worked at a refugee camp called Ritsona, located on a former Greek army base of that name, one hour outside of Athens. The camp had about800 residents, as they’re called, and Bottex taught English to adults and children.

During the long days at the camp, Bottex and the other volunteers learned more about the residents and their personal stories, about the struggles and tragedies they had endured. “We knew many in our communities back home who were interested in the crisis but didn’t understand it or what they could do to help,” she says, “so we had countless conversations about how to bring what we had seen and heard to our home communities.”

A concept slowly evolved: Once they returned to their home countries, the volunteers would host a series of exhibits featuring art, music and other media created at the camps to raise awareness of the refugee crisis. They would gather the artwork, photographs and music while still volunteering at the camps, providing the residents with canvases, paints and other supplies. Music for some of the events featured an album made by a resident who had been a professional musician in his native Syria.

The exhibits would also include photographs taken by one of the volunteers who was a behavioral therapist for the children at the camp. “He could fade into the background and take incredible portraits,” Bottex says. Excerpts of letters from the residents provided additional snapshots of the crisis. The event was called Re:Refugees. “This is a way to say we need to keep talking about [the refugee crisis],” she says of their motivation. Events have been hosted all around the world, Bottex says, ticking off Amsterdam, Barcelona, London and Mallorca. Her event took place at an art studio in Brooklyn last year.“ It raised more than any other event so far,” she says, noting the gallery was packed to capacity.

Volunteering for Syrian refugees probably doesn’t surprise those who know Bottex well. In graduate school, as co-head of Wharton Women in Business, she helped pass initiatives to support working mothers at Wharton, including the creation of a lactation room. She also mentored fellow graduate students through the African-American MBA Association and the Consulting Club; worked with younger students through Wharton Women in Business; and spent time consulting for a West Philadelphia nonprofit that provides job-readiness resources to local women in need.

Non sibi rings in my head very often,” she says. “I never want to do something just for me. What am I giving to the people around me? That value of Exeter — of always thinking about how your actions and what you’re learning and what you’re doing can impact your community — has stuck with me.”

“I still wear my Exeter ring,” she adds. “At this point, it’s a part of me, a token of the values I’ve held close all this time. It’s easy to get stuck in the rat race working consulting now and always needing to think about yourself. But my personal check is to see what’s going on around me and what can I do to make it better.”

—Janet Reynolds

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.