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 Mumbai 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.”
© 2009 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University