Amherst Magazine

Sameer N. Shah '86

Sameer N. Shah '86

Sameer Shah and his family (from 25th Reunion book submission)

Sameer N. Shah, beloved friend and classmate, left us in a tragic accident shortly after our 25th reunion.  It is a struggle to find words to properly convey the size of his life and spirit.   Sameer’s wit, warmth and originality were contagious.  His intelligence made tremendous success at Amherst, in his MBA program at Stanford and in his strategic and financial consulting career, appear easy.  In recent years he reached new levels of happiness with his wonderful family. 

We instantly recognized in Sameer broad intelligence and vigorous intellectual curiosity.  It was visible in his classes, conversation and astute perceptions of the world.  Many of us envied Sameer’s ability to set the curve in his economics classes after only a single night of study at the end of a semester.  Sameer’s education at Amherst extended his breadth as well as an already deep and proficient expertise in business and economics.  He went on to McKinsey & Co., and eventually became an expert among experts, advising Wall Street firms on investment strategy.  

Beyond his obvious intellectual gifts, Sameer glowed in the presence of people.   Wearing his signature khakis, a tailored button-down shirt and loafers, he lingered in conversation at Valentine meals, parties and the office of the Amherst Student. He drew people into his playful orbit by smiling, laughing, joking, dissecting the world and exposing irony everywhere.  Sameer was a genuine friend, thoughtful, encouraging and steadfast. 

Sameer discovered a new depth of contentment in his marriage to Surekha and in parenting their children, Sanjana and Arjun.   Even when Sameer was apart from his children, he radiated an unmistakable paternal glow.  Sameer always cherished the familial love and connection he shared with his parents, Naren and Neena, and his brother, Shalin.  He was bringing these same gifts into his own family.

Sameer had an irrepressible love of Amherst, his friends and acquaintances, and the ideals and experiences we shared with him.    In a conversation after our 25th reunion, he repeated how lucky he felt to have had this privilege.   We will always remember Sameer as the brilliant, fun-loving, and gregarious rebel, the caring and devoted friend and classmate, the tender and devoted husband and father.  He was an exuberant spirit that made our lives brighter.   The privilege these past 29 years was ours. 

Please also visit the website set up by Sameer's family in his memory: sameer.litwin.org 

Comments

I was devastated to learn of Sameer's passing.  I really enjoyed seeing him at our 25th with his wife and two beautiful children.  He seemed really contented.  Now the thought of his beautiful children growing up without him fills me with sadness, but I know that through his wife, friends and family that they will discover what a wonderful person he was.  To Sameer's children, I hope that these remembrances can lift you up when times are hard.  Know that your father touched many lives.  He launched your ships into the ocean of life.  May you always be blessed with gentle tides.

I am sitting here in disbelief about Sameer.  My father died recently (July 14), and while I am sad for that loss, I realize daily, for different reasons, how much gratitude I have for having had the privilege of knowing him for all of my 47 years, a privilege Sameer's children will not have. My thoughts and prayers go out to Sameer's family.  I did not know Sameer well, but I don't think there was ever a time I saw him in four years at Amherst or at reunion without that light inducing smile on his face!  That ever positive light will shine on his family and friends forever, and I hope that helps them walk through the journey they are now on.  I am married to a man who lost his father at age four, and he is truly one of the most kind and loving people I know.  I believe that Sameer's children, with the help of their family and friends, will know the love of their father through those who knew him and loved him too.
Best wishes,
Joanie Brewster 


Sameer started his Amherst experience with two roommates who could not have been more different, one an academically-inclined somewhat reserved person and the other a complete terror, myself being the latter. Sameer went through the entire year simply appreciating the humor and irony of it all. Nothing seemed to faze him. And, for some reason, a memory that sticks out is that he really enjoyed reading maps. Perhaps the contrast of freshman year mayhem all about and his contemplative pose at the desk is why. When I saw Sameer at our 20th, I was struck by the little mannerisms that we remember of each other. With Sameer, it was the way his shoulders jiggled up and down exactly the way they did 20 years earlier. I am grateful that I got to see Sameer at our 20th and 25th. In some way, he will be with us at our 30th.

Like Sameer, I was from FL and as there were not that many of us, it was an automatic bond.  That bond grew a little closer when my dad passed away the first month of freshman year.  I was old enough to reach out to people that I had a lot in common with and my classmates reached back, making a hard time just a little easier.  Sameer's kids are not quite old enough to reach out to us, so I hope our classmates will reach out to them so they grow up knowing what an amazing Dad they had and to help them come to understand that everything that made their dad so special is now a part of them.

Like Sameer, I had a keen interest in Economics and we took many classes together...even the class all Liberal Art Students, except Sameer, dread--Accounting.   All I can tell you is that if given the opportunity, Sameer could have rewritten the Generally Accepted  Accounting Principals one handed on an old typewriter and whatever he would have come up with would have been remarkable.  I am not exactly sure, but my guess is have the fancy steps taken on today's balance sheets were original thoughts to Sameer--he was that creative.

He had an amazing knack for debate--but the thing was, he could do it from both sides of the fence.  Quite a talent which I bet his kids have already have started learning --actually I bet it is part of their genetic code...it came naturally to Sameer and apples do not fall far from trees.  But  down deep, Sameer was never really  argumentative or contrary and if he played devil's advocate or left you struggling for a comeback line, the way out was easy--"Lets go eat."  I can't  tell you how many times I heard that senior year before we'd go for a pizza run.

On the way less serious side, thanks to the invitation of my roommate, Liz Shoemaker '87, we had a terrific  Senior Week in Newport.  Liz invited me, John Brinitzer, Mike Kaufman and Sameer to join her for a week of sailing and sightseeing, plus our fair share of beer, and we had a blast.  My most special memory of Sameer is from that outing...We were on Liz's sailboat andLiz left the helm to me and Sameer while she went under the deck.  Somehow, out of no where Ted Turner's Amercia's Cup boat, appeared and both Sameer and I were transfixed by the sheer size of the thing.   Within seconds, Sameer and I realized we were about to ram it and though 15 minutes of fame might have been fun, we somehow diverted from disaster only to see Liz go nuts at us as we both hilariously laughed.  Not sure if it was me or Sameer, but we tried to convince Liz that we had it under control the whole time and we were just out to give her a good scare...even Liz's shock and chagrin melted with Sameer's smile.  I have uploaded some photos from that week to a Web Site set up in his memory...I hope that John, Liz, and Mike have pics from that week and hope they post them.  

As we both traveled a great deal for work, our paths crossed accidentally a few times.  There was an unreal kind side to Sameer that I am sure his family knows up close and personal, but which I want to share.  Many of you know that I have a chronic illness and sometimes, I am no that smart about it.  I bumped into Sameer about 10 years ago at an airport when I really belonged in bed.  As much as I tried to hide it, Sameer saw right through my act ... he was on his way home, but offered to delay getting home in order to fly back with me to be  sure I got home safely.  He also insisted that I call my doc to tell him I'd be calling the moment I got off the plane.   He checked up on me for several days--I got a chance to thank him at Reunion and for that I am really thankful.

Sameer had many sides--his academic prowess, his certain financial genius, his kindness, and of course, his smile.  I hope many classmates share stories so his kids will have the opportunity to see him as we did.  In Jewish there is an expression that many know--Mensch...Actually, the highest compliment one can pay is to call someone a Mensch--that is exactly what I would call Sameer.  

While the cliche "I did not know Sameer well" holds true in my case, I do know this, simply from one conversation with him at our 25 Reunion: Sameer was a class act. A true gentleman.   It is too hard to grasp that he is gone, when just a few months ago we were all there together.  Not too many words for this.  As a wife myself, I send strength and hope to his wife. 

I got to know Sameer as a result of sitting in several Economics classes with him. From the start Sameer struck me as a totally engaged student, a favorite of the professorial staff, and the one student I had to both keep up with  and keep an eye on. I did my best to keep up grade wise but was perhaps more successful keeping in touch on post-Amherst developments in our respective academic and professional careers.

While we didn't speak regularly, when we did speak the conversation was invariably effortless and, in our own little way, intimate. I think later in life Sameer and I shared a skeptics swagger and a willingness to look at things as they presented themselves to us and just laugh.

I wish I had more time with Sameer. At reunion we talked about getting our families together, considering the tens of miles that separate us. We ran into each other a month or so prior at a Stanford/Harvard Business School bowling party and talked about spending more time together then. Our Gods didn't permit these plans to be carried through but they did bless us with a unique friendship, and for that I am deeply grateful.

I did not know Sameer very well, but he always had a kind hello and that trademark smile whenever we passed on campus.When I saw him at reunion with his children, I thought to myself -- wow-- that is a guy who is really happy to be a father. (You have to be to travel with two small children, right?) My husband and I did not to bring our little girls, as much as we wanted to share the place and event with them,  because of the difficulty and expense. Each time I caught a glimpse of Sameer, and especially when he proudly introduced me to his family, I felt a pang regret that I hadn't brought my girls. This guy was having a blast! So were the kids. He just looked so content and was beaming. It was obviously a side of him (and of many of our classmates) that I hadn't seen before, and it will be a memory of Sameer and Amherst that I cherish.

In my memories, Sameer seemed bemused a lot of the time.  He was always, always welcoming. He never had an attitude.  Even when he stood apart he wasn’t being aloof.  Making him laugh wasn’t really easy, but it wasn’t hard. For a very smart guy, he was pretty goofy.   

The last time we talked, May 2011, which was the first time we had talked in many years, we were sort of to the side of the alumni tent looking at the party.  Sameer was contemplating the drink he was drinking and thinking about whether he should keep drinking it.  He figured, I think, that it was a party, and it was a college party, so he should probably keep it up, but he said to me, “I should probably stop drinking this.” Then he laughed and I asked him about the economic crisis, and the bailout, and tea-partyers, and the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal.  He looked at me like I was crazy, but just for a second because Sameer was game to have a semi-serious let’s see where this is going to go kind of talk.  He knew that I was setting him up; in that way that Sameer got teased and then would come back with something completely brilliant. So he tried to explain something about macro-economics to me (or it could have been micro-economics, but what do I know), but it probably just struck him as completely absurd and he guffawed and told me he needed to sit down to explain it.  We laughed and moved on to talking about family and his life and mine.  He was thrilled and amazed with his young family, blessed as a husband and a father and pondering the beauty of it somewhat later in life than other Amherst classmates. 

I will miss Sameer.  I will miss being able to walk up to him and enjoy seeing how he handled a non-sequitur with grace. 

Indeed, it is not at all fair that such a good-humored man should be gone to us.  May the affection we feel towards Sameer lighten a little the sadness that Sameer’s family must feel, and be assurance too that he was loved by many.  With fond regards, Sarah Stauderman

The news of Sameer's death has deeply impacted his classmates.  I lived with Sameer and Mike Kaufman during our post-grad year in New York.  Living in a big city after growing up in Amherst was certainly a major change for me, causing both excitement and feelings of homesickness.  Sameer was extremely supportive and helpful during that time.  Coming back to the apartment after work and knowing Sameer would be there to discuss anything from how we felt about our jobs to major news events was much appreciated.  Sameer offered perspective and advice with insight, good humor and a calm manner.   Those qualities helped make my relatively brief time in New York feel like home.  The time I spent living with Sameer provided a glimpse into the wonderful family man many of us were lucky to see at Reunion.  I believe that Sameer's family will feel his love and guidance with them as they move forward in life.

I didn't know Sameer very well, but we hugged at reunion and his smile was as bright as ever.   I am so sorry for the loss that Sameer's family and close friends must be feeling right now.  However, I am also reminded of the words of my father when I was experiencing the grief of loss, "Thank goodness you hurt so much because it means you loved completely."

Sameer. I am part of that seemingly small group of classmates who didn't know Sameer well, or really much at all. And yet as I read his name in Mike's email, Sameer's bright, gregarious, and infectious smile flashed forward through the years. Even those of us who didn't know him well will remember Sameer fondly. More importantly, we will understand that our generation has lost a wonderfully, genuinely good guy. The loss to his family is, of course, far greater than that. It is my hope, my prayer, that the groundswell of emotion from those closest to Sameer will embrace his family in support and gentle, loving care. 

I cannot imagine.   I cannot find the words.  An incredibly warm and friendly man.  Such a beautiful wife and beautiful children.  An indescribable, unfathomable loss.  May his warmth and spirit embrace them, and may it inspire all of us.

I never met Sameer, but I recall his face and his friendly spirit. What comes to mind is a person who was open and warm. He is the fellow who would offer a smile as you passed each other on campus, even though we were strangers to each other.  His generosity will surely live on through and in his children.  The Amherst campus was made a better place for his being there.

I did know Sameer.  We traveled in different circles, but we had some classes together and developed an easy and familiar friendship that lasted our four years.  You know those people who ask, "How are you?" but don't really mean it?  Sameer was not one of those people.  His interest in and concern for others were completely genuine and heartfelt.  I never saw him down or angry or mean -- always upbeat and always with that smile of his.  I wasn't able to make the reunion, but when the planning began, and when I made my mental list of people I needed to see, his name was at the top.  I will always regret that.  My thoughts and prayers go to Sameer's family, and I hope  the memory of the kind of  husband, father and friend he was will give them comfort and peace.

Sameer was upbeat, that's what I remember most about him. And his smile. That brilliant smile. Godspeed, buddy.

Upon first observing Sameer tracing his finger along some winding back road of some city on his road atlas, I simply asked him about the obsession. His response was that he enjoyed learning about how a city might be organized.  He possessed that aspect of mind in which his observations seemed to be condensed into brilliant one liners.  Every encounter with him was memorable. Seeing him at the 20th, he asked me if we were the only two Indians in our class and then chuckled at how the demographics had changed, citing the percentage.  At our 25th, we encountered him with his family and he had been transformed by his kids and was conversationally less cerebral and more heart-centered than even he might have thought possible.  It was a beautiful time. On the dance floor I observed him at that magical moment when the band played "Shout" and he was among the uninhibited at that blissful hour, 'kicking his heels out and throwing his hands up.'  My only wish for him, on this the first of his birthdays that his family with register without him is that each of their lives will be as rich as his was at that hour.

I’ve been reflecting on some good times I had with Sameer and wanted to share some of them with you on his birthday today.  Sameer was one of the first people I remember meeting at Amherst.  I was the only person in our class coming from Utah and so since my roommate, Hanako Muto, had gone to Kent with one of our classmates, Chris Bragdon, we went over to his room so I could meet him and his roommates.  One of his roommates was Sameer.

At first glance, I could tell this was going to be an interesting room grouping.  Sameer’s areas were neat and organized; Chris’s were much less so.  Sameer said something along the lines of “pleased to meet you” when we were introduced; Chris said something along the lines of “hey, how’s it going?”  Over the course of the year, I think Chris mellowed Sameer somewhat and encouraged him to participate in some things he might not have tried otherwise; and I heard on at least one occasion Chris complaining that Sameer wouldn’t let him sleep all day through his classes, encouraging Chris to make the most of the educational opportunity.  The cool thing about Sameer was that he could tell you what he thought or offer advice, and since he always delivered it with a smile and a sense of humor, you just said, “okay” and did it.  His smile always seemed to get him out of trouble and make those people around him want to spend more time with him. 

I know that Sameer helped me out immensely in Econ 11 when I just didn’t understand the material and was very frustrated.  I remember an evening in Frost Library when he walked me through an assignment, explaining it carefully and patiently after a couple of other classmates had completely given up on me.  I remember him telling me that I was trying to compare apples to oranges and that I shouldn’t look for exceptions or loopholes in Econ 11, but that I should save that for Poli Sci 11 instead.  Sameer seemed not only to grasp the material, but actually enjoy it, and he seemed to enjoy helping a struggling classmate understand it, too.

Another memory I have of him was one time when we were going into town to get something to eat.  We had all agreed to meet on the Freshman Quad since he was coming from James and some others of us were coming from South.  When we met up, someone commented that Sameer didn’t need to wear a pink button-down shirt, tucked neatly into his pants, to go into town (most of the rest of us were wearing very casual T-shirts).  So, Sameer said he’d catch up with us and he went back to change.  He later met us wearing a tucked in BLUE button-down shirt with a sweater tied around his shoulders.  He had changed the color of his shirt, but not his style.  We decided at the time that we needed to draw a picture of Sameer into The Preppy Handbook with the label “Ethnic Prep” next to it.  At our 25th reunion, we got to share a good laugh over this memory since there he was, in a pink shirt, nicely pressed, only not a button-down anymore.

I have only seen Sameer a handful of times since graduation (if you don’t count being friends on Facebook where I got such a kick out of his learning how to use his Blackberry and posting Sameer “is” a number of times).  He is a guy who I will always remember fondly, with a big smile on his face (reflected in his eyes) and a ready laugh.  He enjoyed life and seemed to live every moment to the fullest.  I am very deeply saddened that he will not be with us for many future moments.

Carol Coombs Schuster

Amherst Class of ‘86


It seems I'm a "johnny-come-lately" sort.  I, too, did not know Sameer well and, after reading some of the comments on this page, I wish I had known him better.  I especially wish I had known he was such a wiz at economics, since I struggled with that subject at Amherst. :)   Nevertheless, I did have the privilege of seeing him briefly at the 25th of reunion and encountered a warm and gracious individual with a great smile.  I cann0t even imagine the depth of feeling that comes from experiencing such a loss at such a young age.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family.  And to his children, please know that your father was truly a wonderful man, who was loved by many and who obviously touched many people's lives in a very personal way.

Sameer was a gracious person who smiled easily and welcomed me (and others) to come and sit with him and his table mates for meals together in Valentine.  I remember times when I was holding my tray full of food looking for a place to sit and seeing Sameer smile and gesture for me to join him for conversation and laughter.


The Sameer Smile was unforgettable on the Amherst College campus 1982 - 1986 – a bright, uplifting, geniune expression that would stick with you for a long time.  One day I was picking up mail after a rough morning calculus class, and there was The Smile to remind me that the day would get better.  Another frantic day I’d endured some stressful final exams, and as I entered Valentine Dining Hall for lunch, The Smile reminded me that life is good.  Sameer was a warm, engaging, intelligent friend, and I feel so fortunate to have known him.  He was blessed, in turn, by a wonderful and loving family that caused him to smile so easily and brightly.  The Sameer Smile was “Terras Irradient” in action  – Sameer shining his light, happiness and comfort, on those around him, on his world.  The Sameer Smile and his spirit will live on with the Class of 1986, and will continue to brighten our lives and our reunions forever.

 

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