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Many faiths commemorate man of science
University, Athens communities gather to remember a promising life cut short

July 20, 2007
By Anita Martin

Those lucky enough to call Abhishek Singh their friend, student or teacher say they are forever changed by his inexhaustible curiosity and ready smile. 

Abhishek SinghSingh, of Faizabad, India, who was pursuing a doctorate in physics at Ohio University, died following a June 30 traffic accident on Richland Avenue, just six days before his 23rd birthday. 

Close to 200 members of the university and Athens communities gathered Thursday afternoon to honor his life and celebrate his memory. Amritjit Singh, the university's Langston Hughes Professor of English and African American Studies, led the service.

"We are all part of a university community, and a university community in a small town," Amritjit Singh said. "We are all connected, and in that way, we are all Abhishek's extended family."

Amritjit Singh, with the help of Singh's friends and university staff members, designed the service as an interfaith memorial to facilitate the healing of mourners of various beliefs. The service incorporated Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Sikh and Jewish prayers, blessings, chants and songs.

References to Singh's passionate inquisitiveness were threaded through the service as friends and professors shared their memories.

"Abhishek did not blindly accept what was written in textbooks. He wanted to question them, to test ideas of his own," said Kenneth Hicks, professor of physics and Singh's research adviser. "He expressed the critical thinking that is the hallmark of science."

Share your remembrances

Those who wish to send a message to Singh's family may stop by the Office of International Student and Faculty Services in Baker Center 348 to sign a book of condolences. The book will be sent to Singh's family at the end of July.

In recognition of Singh's interest in teaching undergraduate students, the Department of Physics and Astronomy has established an undergraduate scholarship in his name to serve as a permanent memorial.

Those wishing to make a donation to endow this scholarship may send contributions to:

Department of Physics & Astronomy
Ohio University
251 Clippinger Labs
Athens, OH 45701

Please make checks out to The Ohio University Foundation. For more information, contact Wayne Chiasson at 740-593-1712 or chiasson@ohio.edu.

Many noted that Singh's interests extended far beyond his studies of accelerated particle physics to include such subjects as history, economics, psychology and linguistics, to name a few. Friends said he often worked in the lab or read late into the night, only to rise earlier than his roommates the next morning to return to his studies.

"Abhishek was a living encyclopedia," said Dhruv Kohli, one of those roommates. "Talk about history or talk about technology, he always had an answer."

Kellen Murphy, Singh's officemate in the physics department, spoke of his inspirational effect. "What I learned from Abhishek is that everyone should seek out passion and indulge in that passion as much as possible."

In all accounts, Singh was described as a genuine scholar, devoted to understanding the nature of the physical world and spreading his love of science to others through teaching. Singh's frequent laughter revealed a playful side as well. 

As Singh's friend Brett Ragozzine recalled with a laugh, Singh sometimes joked about keeping an imaginary pet stegosaurus named Fred. "He could be so serious sometimes," Ragozzine said, "but he was also always smiling and laughing."

In response to Singh's death, his fellow physics students have submitted a petition asking Athens City Council to improve pedestrian safety near the intersection of Ohio Route 682 and Richland Avenue. In addition, the Department of Physics and Astronomy is collecting donations in hopes of creating an endowed undergraduate scholarship in Singh's name to honor his devotion to teaching.

"Abhishek's major goal was to improve the world," Amritjit Singh said. "By addressing better safety and creating this undergraduate scholarship, he will certainly improve the world here in Athens."

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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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