Nagambal Shah, Ph.D.: Life’s Best Years
In the summer of 1972, a wavy black-haired Nagambal Shah came to teach in the pre-freshman summer science program. Some 42 years later the white-haired professor of mathematics said this is the right time for her to leave.
“Since my health is OK, and I’m able to navigate myself, travel and visit family and friends, it is time to regroup,” said Shah, who received her bachelor's in mathematics and master's in statistics from the University of Kerala in India and master's and doctorate from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.
“When it is time, you know it is time. That is where I am. Rather than say, ‘I will miss Spelman,’ I want to say I will cherish the time I spent at Spelman. My tenure at Spelman has been my life’s best years, and Spelman will always be close to my heart.”
A mentor and teacher, Shah has encouraged hundreds of students and inspired many other faculty members.
"Dr. Shah works tirelessly to challenge her students and make sure they are the best scholars they can be, ensuring that every Spelmanite who enters her class gains a fundamental understanding of mathematical concepts that they will be able to carry with them throughout the remainder of their academic journey,” said senior Kemi Oyewole, an economics major who will be attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall to work on a doctorate in economics. “Dr. Shah also makes an effort to mentor students and to learn about their dreams and aspirations, even outside the realm of mathematics. For all her contributions, she will be truly missed."
Professor of Mathematics
Nagambal Shah is a senior faculty member of the Spelman College mathematics department where she has served for 40 years. She received her bachelor's degree in mathematics and master's in statistics from the University of Kerala in India and master's and doctorate from University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. She has developed and taught statistics courses at Spelman and mentored several undergraduate research projects.
Several of her students have gone to graduate school and received doctorate degrees in statistics and biostatistics from institutions like MIT, UNC/Chapel Hill, NC State University, University of Maryland, Berkeley, University of Birmingham, and Rice University, to name a few. In November 2001, she coordinated and hosted the first StatFest, a one-day conference aimed at encouraging undergraduate minority students to pursue careers and graduate studies in statistical sciences.
In 2005, she spearheaded the efforts to host and obtain funding for the first Infinite Possibilities Conference. She is an advocate for diversity in graduate education especially for African-Americans and women and received the 2001 Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award for Excellence in Education and Diversity from Emory University, Atlanta. She is a Fellow of ASA, was a member of the Leadership Support Council and vice chair of the awards committee of ASA (2010-2012) and has also served as the past chair of ASA’s Committee on Minorities in Statistics.