Karan Patel ’19 passed away on July 3, 2017. Widely recognized across the St. Olaf campus as a unique, welcoming and selfless individual student, Patel grew up in Chicago, Ill., and during his time at St. Olaf pursued a degree in mathematics in hopes of one day becoming a teacher. Patel was a St. Olaf Posse Scholar, demonstrative of his role as a leader in many contexts as well as his admirable commitment to academics and community. Patel was diagnosed with kidney cancer mid-summer and passed away six weeks later.
Patel was consistently engaged in meaningful conversations which served him well as the co-president of the Hindu Club on campus. Known for being passionately devoted to his Hindu faith, he often spent holidays and weekends at a Hindu Temple in Minneapolis, Minn. Patel was eager to discuss religion and the world with those around him and was always open to new ideas and intellectual exploration.
On Sept. 21, the college held a memorial service for Patel in Urness Recital Hall. Students, faculty, staff, family and friends gathered to honor Patel, as well as the many profound contributions he made to both personal and public life at St. Olaf and beyond. Assistant Professor Dipannita Kalyani sang a song entitled, “You Are The Ocean of Compassion,” and Professor Anantanand Rambachan spoke about Patel’s character, academic ambition and religious fervor.
Rambachan spoke of Patel in an email sent to the St. Olaf community shortly after his passing.
“When I visited Karan two weeks ago in Chicago, his illness had not dimmed his smile or his delight in conversation with one of his teachers. His time with us was brief, but his imprint in our hearts deep.”
A close friend of Patel’s, Martin Modev ’19, also spoke during the service, fondly sharing bits of their relationship. Modev highlighted Patel’s perseverance, loyalty and charming sense of humor. At the end of the ceremony, all in attendance were invited to place white rose petals at the base of a photograph of Patel, which was surrounded by his family’s offerings of a garland, light and incense.
As is St. Olaf tradition, an endowed scholarship was created in Patel’s name. Donations can be made in his memory to the Karan Patel Memorial Scholarship, and in the future will provide unrestricted financial aid to a deserving student.