Minal Hiralal Panchal

Age: 26

Class: Masters Student (first year)

Major: Architecture

Hometown: Mumbai, India

High School: Our Lady of Remedy (Mumbai, India) - Class of 1996

Previous College Education: BS, Science (Mithibhai College); BS, Architecture (Rizvi School of Architecture) - 2003

Died along with Prof. Librescu in Solid Mechanics class.


Audio/Video Remembrances

YouTube Video: A video of Minal Panchals Orkut Page

Personal Remembrances From Family/Friends/Colleagues

Submit your personal remembrance for posting here (please include your name and relationship).

Tribute to Minal Panchal at Facebook

Newspaper Remembrance Stories

Student from India loved mint chocolate ice cream
(Roanoke Times Profile)

Asheem Deshpande didn’t know Minal Panchal very well, but he was part of a welcoming committee that greeted the architecture student when she arrived at Virginia Tech last fall.

Panchal was one of two Indians who were killed in Monday’s shooting.

While a student at the University of Mumbai, she attended Rizvi College of Architecture where, in 2003, she presented her thesis, “Children’s Museum: An Environment for Development of Children at Borivli.”

According to dnaindia.com, she is survived by her mother, who is visiting the United States, and by an elder sister in New Jersey and an aunt in Maryland.

Panchal’s father, an architect, died in 2005.

“She was a very sweet girl,” said Deshpande, a master’s degree student in computer science. Over the Christmas holiday, he gave Panchal and some friends of hers a ride to Washington.

“We saw some museums, had dinner, had some fun,” he explained. “We wanted to go ice skating but decided not to because it was too cold.”

Panchal had another destination she wanted to reach while they were in Maryland.

“She wanted to see the waterfront,” Deshpande recalled. “I couldn’t understand why, but she did. There were six, seven friends that night and we went out there and saw that.”

Internet message boards indicate that Panchal was a fan of Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright and mint chocolate ice cream.

— Neil Harvey (Roanoke Times, 3/19/07)

New York Times Profile:

She was a nature lover and Harry Potter fan who hoped some day to follow in the footsteps of her father, a successful architect in India.

Before she was shot down on Monday in a classroom in Norris Hall, 26-year-old Minal Panchal had just about achieved her dream. Ms. Panchal had obtained an undergraduate degree from the Rizvi School of Architecture in her home state of Mumbai, India, and was pursuing a masters degree in architecture at Virginia Tech.

"She was a brilliant student and warm and friendly," a childhood friend, Neeta Bhivankar, told the Indo-Asian News Service. "She always wanted to excel academically and wanted to make it big in the field of architecture. I just can't believe Minal is no longer here."

At 5-foot-6 with black hair and brown eyes, Ms. Panchal was known among her friends as the beauty with brains. A profile she posted on the Web site Orkut.com painted the picture of a young, hopeless romantic who loved thunderstorms, candlelight, Chinese food and the movies "When Harry Met Sally" and "Seven Years in Tibet."

According to Navtej Sarna, a spokesman for the Indian embassy in Washington, Ms. Panchal's family is deciding whether to return her body to India.

Architecture student had many passions
USAToday Profile

Minal Panchal left her home in Mumbai, India, last year to pursue her dream to become an architect like her father, who died a few years ago.

"She was really passionate about architecture, about buildings," said Chetna Parekh, a friend from Mumbai.

Panchal, 26, a first-year graduate student, said her passions are architecture and nature, according to her postings on Orkut, a social-networking site. Her profile said she also liked to watch cricket and movies, especially When Harry Met Sally and The Way We Were. Her favorite books included the Harry Potter series, Little Women and To Kill a Mockingbird.

"She was just a sweet girl," says Aseem Deshpande, a computer science student at Virginia Tech who helped welcome her to campus and the Indian Student Association. "She was passionate about everything," he said, recalling how she said she would never buy African diamonds after seeing the movie BloodDiamond.

Deshpande said Panchal was looking forward to a summer internship in Washington, D.C., and to her mother's campus visit. Her mother, Hansa, had recently moved to New Jersey, where her older daughter, Kavita, lives.

Panchal earned a bachelor's degree from the Rizvi College of Architecture in Mumbai. The school's principal, Akhtar Chauhan, told the Mumbai Daily News & Analysis that he'd ask the state government to build a children's museum in Panchal's honor.

Washington Post Profile:

Minal Panchal's mother recently arrived in the United States from her home in India to spend time with Panchal and her sister -- "just to visit the daughters . . . sort of just a break," said Rahul Chhabra, an Indian Embassy official.

After Monday's shootings, Panchal's mother, a widow, traveled to Blacksburg.

Minal Panchal, who grew up in the Indian state of Gujarat, was killed in a Norris Hall classroom along with other students and Professor G.V. Loganathan, Chhabra said.

Loganathan was also born in India, and small photographs of his and Panchal's faces have been placed on the blackened Web site of the school's Indian Students Association. "Our community has witnessed an unforeseeable tragedy," it reads.

From her pages at the social networking site Orkut, a picture of Panchal's personality emerges:

"humor: dry/sarcastic, friendly . . ."

"fashion: casual, contemporary . . ."

"pets: i like them at the zoos . . ."

"music: old hindi, r.d. burman, soft rock, enrique . . . and any fast music while at work."

A friend wrote, "Beauty with brains."

The first-year graduate student was taking classes in building sciences and architecture, Chhabra said.

A message left in a digital memorial reads: "Lets Pray for her Family. May her soul rest in Peace. Dear Minal, WE ALL MISS YOU A LOT."

-- Mike Laris, The Washington Post

Chronicle of Higher Education Profile:

Among the American things Minal Panchal loved was Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, which takes its name from the young narrator’s lesson that it is a sin to take the life of an innocent being.

Ms. Panchal, 26, is being remembered in her native Mumbai, India, and at Virginia Tech for her gentleness, dry wit, and willingness to help people. Friends affectionately called her “Minu,” and children from her Mumbai neighborhood saw her as someone they could turn to for help with their schoolwork, according to news reports.

A determined and bright student, Ms. Panchal had made the long journey from India to Virginia Tech to train to be an architect, like her father. She enrolled last August as a first-year student in the university´s graduate program in architecture.

In her blog, Ms. Panchal listed architecture and nature among her passions in life. She also enjoyed sketching, “talking to friends any place any time,” and reading, especially Harry Potter.

Friends posted comments about Ms. Panchal on their bloggers’ network while she was alive. “She has a nice caring nature toward her friends and enjoys her life to the fullest,” said one. A longtime friend back in India wrote, “I really miss her, as she is quite far now.”

—Peter Schmidt

From Orkut to Bandra, all had prayed for Minal
The Indian Express

A beach of her own, a bike, a musician guy, chocolate mint ice cream and pretty earrings. Minal Panchal wants so much from life.

That’s how a friend had described 26-year-old Minal, the Indian student reported missing after the Virginia Tech shooting, in a testimonial in Orkut, a community portal.

Late tonight, the worst fears came true. Rahul Chhabra of The Indian Embassy in Washington confirmed to The Indian Express that Minal — she was attending a civil engineering lecture when the shooting took place — was dead.

“We have just learnt with great sorrow that apart from the Indian American professor, a first year student, Minal Panchal, is also among the victims,” Chhabra said.

A string of “hope you are fine” messages, which started early this morning from close friends in Orkut, had people from across the country enquiring about Minal and expressing concern. By 8.30 pm, there were 1,251 messages.

From strings like, “Hi, don’t know you personally but came to know about you in the news. My prayers are with you,” to “Hey I am Ashoke from Guwahati, Assam, India hope you are safe. You don’t know me. But as a well-wisher I pray to almighty God to keep you safe” to messages from strangers like “It’s believed that god hears prayers and fulfils the ones that are sincere, the whole nation is praying for you. I am confident you will be safe and sound, take care. God bless.”

In Borivali, the usually quiet street outside the Park View apartment, where Minal stayed until last year, was abuzz with activity. That was before she went to the US to pursue a career in architecture last August.

A “quiet and intelligent” girl was GP Bhivandkar’s closest friend’s younger daughter.

“I am really worried about what may have happened to her. She was my close friend’s daughter. She used to study really well and top her class,” said Bhivandkar.

Minal, the younger daughter of the Panchals, attended the Our Lady of Remedy School.

Her father, an architect himself, died five years ago after a bypass surgery.

Her mother shifted recently to New Jersey to live with her elder daughter Kavita.

Meanwhile, professors at Rizvi College, Bandra, from where Minal graduated with a first class in architecture, feared the worst. “Minal could be one of the victims,” said Jamshed Bhiwandiwalla, senior lecturer, who taught her. His fears were confirmed tonight.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

(Swatee Kher, Mihika Basu and Smita Nair contributed to this report)

Minal confirmed dead in US shootout
Headlines India

Mumbai: Indian student Minal Hiralal Panchal, who had been missing after a gunman went on a shooting spree at the Virginia Tech University, has been confirmed dead by the Indian embassy in the US. The 26-year-old, who was pursuing masters in building science, was in the Norris Hall when the shooting took place on Monday in the Blacksburg town university. Minal's family, which is from Mumbai's western suburbs of Borivili, was in the US at the time. Neighbours at her fifth-floor apartment in Borivili West's Park View residence said Minal's mother left for the US two weeks ago while her elder sister Kavita is married and lives in the US. "Minal's mother left to visit Kavita, who lives in New Jersey with her husband. Minal's father Hiralal, an architect, passed away a couple of years back after a cardiac arrest," said a neighbour. Minal passed out from Mumbai's Our Lady of Remedy High School at Poinsur in Kandivili in 1996. After gaining a science degree from Mithibhai College, she studied at the Rizvi College of Architecture in Bandra.

An ardent fan of Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead", Minal chose to follow in her father's footsteps and become an architect. To her friends and former classmates, she was an intelligent and friendly girl. "Last year she gave her GRE and TOEFL exams and was selected at the Virginia Tech on the basis of her high scores. She was eager to join Kavita in the US and was thrilled when she got selected to pursue her master's at Virginia Tech.

"She left for the US in September 2006 and was based in Blacksburg in Virginia," Neeta Bhivankar, Minal's childhood friend, said. "She was a brilliant student and warm and friendly. She always wanted to excel academically and wanted to make it big in the field of architecture. I just can't believe Minal is no longer there. "We had been fearing the worst ever since the news of the massacre. We had been in touch on the Internet and it was only last week that I had chatted with her. Who would know that I'd lose her so soon and so cruelly?" asked a tearful Bhivankar, who had known Minal for 12 years.

Added Vibhuti Sarmalkar, another former schoolmate: "We used to keep in touch by email. When I first saw the news of the shootout, I prayed to god and hoped that Minal was safe. Now that the horror has become real, I just cannot believe it. "Minal wanted to follow in her father's footsteps as an architect. She was so studious and her room was full of books. She was polite and always a true friend to us," she added.

Residents of Park View building added that the Panchals were very sociable. When Minal's father was alive, the family attended all housing society functions. "In fact Minal's father served as the secretary of the housing society for several years. The Panchals had been living in Borivili for nearly two decades," said K K Parekh, a next-door neighbour.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Children's Museum in Borivli Planned in Minal Panchal's Memory

daijworld.com (India)

Mumbai / Washington: While a pall of gloom hangs over the Virginia Tech campus, the authorities at Mumbai’s Rizvi College of Architecture, where Minal Panchal studied for five years before going to the US, have come up with a thoughtful way to remember their student.

The college, which has organised a condolence meeting today, plans to approach the state government to build a children’s museum in Borivli, an idea Minal had expressed in her thesis, which is still considered the best in the college. “A child is like wet mud, gets shaped as one moulds it. To have ideals of excellence, a stimulative environment is needed, an environment of freedom, open-mindedness, playfulness and creativity,” she had written in her thesis, ‘Children’s Museum in Borivli’.

Principal Akhtar Chauhan said: “We will talk to the BMC and other authorities to let us build a children’s museum in Borivli. We will provide all the technical expertise and assistance. It was her dream and we will fulfil it.”

As for Minal’s friends at Rizvi, they are too shocked to react to her death. “We were together in college for five years. I can’t believe she is gone,” said Faizan Khatri, a classmate. Her teachers remember her as a shy but jovial girl, who was excellent when it came to making structures. “She would have made an outstanding architect,” said Professor Pradnya Chauhan. “One of my best students. I taught her for two years. It was sheer fate that she was attending a lecture at the time of the shooting. Two of her friends, who are also from our college and students of Virginia Tech, did not attend lectures that day.”

In the US, Minal’s sister, Kavita Suratkal, and their mother maintained a dignified silence, refusing to speak to the media about their loss. “It is a personal matter,” Kavita told DNA. “I would not like to talk about Minal with the media.” Kavita, who lives in New Jersey with her husband, is at Virginia Tech along with her mother since Monday night.

Minal’s best friend and classmate in the US, Bharati Karmarkar, who is also a Mumbai resident, said: “I’m in no condition to talk right now. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to talk about Minal’s death to anyone.”

Aseem Deshpande, 21, a computer science student at Virginia Tech and a close friend of Minal,  said after watching the Leonardo diCaprio-starrrer Blood Diamond, Minal pledged never to buy diamonds from Africa, said Despande. “That’s how she was… extremely passionate about everything. It will be difficult to cope with this loss.” 

April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech Magazine Profile (5/07)

Throughout her short life, Minal Hiralal Panchal strengthened her family with her childlike enthusiasm and infectious laughter, which always served to brighten their days. Her loved ones will remember her kindness, her lifelong passion for architecture and the built environment, and her ability to focus on her goals and dedicate herself to challenges.

Minal was born in Borivali in Mumbai, India, on July 17, 1980. “Minu,” as her family called her, developed a talent for watercolor painting, which became an avenue for self-expression and emotional release, as well as a tool for bringing her thoughts into perspective. She swam, wrote poetry, read modern fiction, and enjoyed soft rock and Indian Western fusion music.

The apple of her parents’ eyes, Minal was encouraged by her family to pursue her dream of exploring and analyzing architecture. Her fascination with complex and beautifully resolved structural solutions guided her academic career. In India, she was ranked in the top 10 of the state-level architecture entrance test. She was nominated for the Charles Correa Gold Medal for 2003 and was ranked first at Rizvi College in Mumbai, India, for her final-year design solution. Minal received a bachelor’s degree from Rizvi College of Architecture in 2003.

From May 2004 to May 2005, Minal worked as a junior architect for architect Trupti Ambedkar in Mumbai, where her responsibilities included architectural designing, working drawings, and site coordination. From July 2005 to July 2006, she worked for architect Prashant Sutaria in Mumbia as an assistant architect. There, Minal’s responsibilities expanded to include client interest, various consultants, and independent project handling.

Being admitted to the master of science program in architecture Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design brought Minal to the top rung of her education and closer than ever to her dream. She began the program in fall 2006 and focused her work on dealing with energy-efficient design solutions and advanced building structures. She also worked spring term for Ed McPherson, director of VT Stars, Summer Training Academy for Rising Students. Minal’s responsibilities, under McPherson’s guidance, included website maintenance, brochure design, teaching AutoCAD, and organizing data.

Though she was at Virginia Tech for less than one academic year, she connected to countless people with her kind, uncomplicated nature. Her self-respect and ability to love, especially to love her family, radiated through her to the Virginia Tech community. Minal’s friends and family carry her spirit with them.

“There are some people who need a year to be noticed, some who need a big achievement, and some conquer the world with power and fame,” said a Virginia Tech friend. “There are others who change the world by simply being themselves, offering peace and happiness with their smiles—Minu, you were one of those.”

Memorial Scholarship

Through the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Minal Hiralal Panchal Memorial Scholarship has been established at Virginia Tech in her memory. For more information and/or to donate to this memorial fund, see VT's Hokie Spirit Memorial Funds page.