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Monday, April 28, 2008

Tutor known for intelligence, love of learning

Anjale Pai, 1982-2008

Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A : Generosity, intelligence and an undying optimism are what people remember about Anjali Pai, a 25-year-old St. John's College graduate and public school tutor who died in an automobile accident March 30.

With an ever-present smile — representative of a quiet, inner confidence, friends said — Pai earned a master's degree in western philosophy at St. John's in December and also worked as a tutor in the Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, program with the Santa Fe Public Schools.

She was traveling to Plano, Texas, to visit her family while the schools were on spring break, friends said, when the fatal accident occurred in Norman, Okla.

"I actually got to see her shortly before," said Robin Shishido, a former classmate and tutor with AVID. "It was very shocking, but I was very thankful that I got to see her."

Shishido and other friends described Pai as an extremely intelligent woman whose interests ranged from science and math to music and literature. In addition to her degree from St. John's, Pai also had bachelor's degrees in biology and music from Lake Forest College in Illinois and a master's degree in music from the University of Toronto.

It was a love of learning that pushed Pai to continue her education, and she took something from every experience, friends said.

"She even talked about how her teaching experiences were about learning," said John Hall, a friend. "My last experience with her, she was really, really happier than I had ever seen her.

"She talked about how happy she was to be teaching and to be investing in the learning process in all possible ways. She was a good Johnny in that sense."

Patrick Hudson, a former classmate, remembers Pai most for the generosity she showed when he was working on a class project. He was in a counseling program and needed to interview someone of a different ethnicity.

He approached Pai, whose parents had emigrated from India, and asked if she would talk with him. "She had an incredibly intense awareness of what it was like to be ethnically different," Hudson said, "and she handled it in a mature and an intelligent fashion."

Pai went out of her way to spend hours with Hudson and voluntarily wrote a description of herself that he used in his project.

Out of their interaction, Hudson learned Pai strived so hard to succeed because of her parents' immigrant experience. "One of the things she said to me was how much she loved her parents and how grateful she was for all they had done for her," he said. "She wanted to make the most of her life, partly in gratitude to them."

For the past two years, Pai tutored students in the AVID program, and teachers and students said her vast knowledge was an invaluable asset. "She knew a lot about a variety of things, and the kids appreciated that," said Marcos Gallegos, a teacher at Capital High School.

Gallegos described an instance in which students were having a hard time with an Advanced Placement history course. "(Pai) came in and said, 'Can I borrow the book?' " Gallegos said. "She read it so she could help the kids."

And even when she didn't know an answer or students were struggling, she was never negative, students said. "I don't ever remember seeing her unhappy," said Yalithza Lopez, a student at Capital. "She always had a smile on her face."

St. John's is holding a memorial for Pai at 4 p.m. today in the Junior Commons Room of the Peterson Student Center.

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