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Sasha Haagensen

UT professor killed in Sunday plane crash

Shama Gamkhar, a professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs, was killed along with her husband, Sid Shah, in a Sunday plane crash in Bacon County Georgia according to Bacon County officials.
Sasha Haagensen

Shama Gamkhar, a professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs, was killed along with her husband, Sid Shah, in a Sunday plane crash.

A small plane being flown by Shah crashed in Bacon County Georgia on Sunday, immediately killing the couple, according to Bacon County authorities, who said they were the only ones in the plane.

Gamkhar joined the LBJ School in 1996 as an assistant professor and just completed her first year as a graduate advisor for its Master of Public Affairs degree program. She was an expert of environmental economic policy and taught public finance and financial management.

Gamkhar was 54 and her husband 58.

Several of Gamkhar’s close colleagues shared their fond memories of her with The Horn.

“During her nearly eighteen years at the school, Shama flourished as a scholar and teacher and enriched our community,” Urban Policy Professor Robert Wilson said. “She was an excellent colleague, readily engaging in discussions of public policy and research, relying on her own disciplinary perspectives but displaying qualities of curiosity and open mindedness needed in the field of public policy.”

Clinical Professor of Public Policy Practice Angela Evans said though Gamkhar was “profoundly” intellectual, she never wanted to be the “center of attention” and “worked through things in a calm and accepting” way.

Evans reminisced of how the two would frequently talk about life issues as well as ways to improve the student curriculum at UT.

“[Gamkhar] was a humble, gentle and open-minded friend who genuinely cared about students,” Evans said.

Evans said Gamkhar always tried to focus on students that were having difficulty with adjusting to the graduate school’s curriculum.

Lecturer and Center for Politics and Governance Director Sherri Greenberg said Gamkhar had expressed her excitement to begin her second year as an advisor.

“She was just an amazing person, so knowledgeable, but easy going and passionate about students at LBJ and UT,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg said she and Gamkhar first met when they taught Public Financial Management at UT and recalled her “happy” and “positive attitude.” Greenberg said that attitude, combined with her passion for students, “culminated” into Gamkhar’s role as an advisor for the college.

Wilson said Gamkhar’s title as an advisor became “another venue for students to appreciate her warmth and generosity of spirit.”

“UT has lost a professor who had great passion for LBJ and UT as a whole,” Greenberg said. “You couldn’t ask for a better colleague … everyone is going to miss her smiling face and optimistic attitude.”

Greenberg and Evans told The Horn about how happy Gamkhar was about her recent marriage to Shah.

Greenberg recalled attending Gamkhar and Shah’s wedding reception about two years ago at the Daniel H. Caswell House at 14th St. and West Ave.

“The reception was wonderful, I mean everyone was beaming,” Greenberg said. “It was beautiful. They were beautiful.”

Evans said Gamkhar had talked to her about just getting used to traveling between Austin and Atlanta to see Shah and about how happy Gamkhar was about traveling to see her recently wedded husband.

“In a world full of big egos, [Gamkhar’s] was one marked by humility,” Evans said.

"We have lost a beloved colleague, devoted teacher and wonderful friend, whose memory and example we will carry with us,” LBJ School Dean Robert Hutchings said in an official statement. “Our hearts go out to Shama and Sid's family and friends."

A memorial dedicated to Gamkhar can be found at the LBJ school website.

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