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|February 24, 2000|
Scholarship to be set up in memory of Ron Patel
Arthur J Pais
Chhotabhai Ronald Patel, one of the most respected American editors, spent many hours a week as a meat cutter during his boyhood in Detroit.
Son of a Polish mother and Chhotabhai Ukabhai Patel, an Indian immigrant who ran an electrical appliance store, Ron lost his father at age three.
The future editor had to learn every survival trick in a tough, mostly all-white neighborhood.
'I fought people who called me 'nigger' from my first day of kindergarten until my freshman year in college,' Patel wrote in The Philadelphia Inquirer's Sunday magazine. 'I became flinty, tough, streetwise, and I was proud of it.'
He was also proud of rising above poverty.
"He was very poor during his college years, too and he fought hard to be someone," says his wife Mary Frangipanni Patel.
When Patel, 52, the long-time Sunday editor of The Inquirer, died in January of cancer, nearly 2000 people attended the church service. Within few hours of death, people began sending flowers worth thousands of dollars, Mary Patel remembers.
"I thought there would be a better way to use the money," she says, adding that she spread the word that the mourners could help her set up a scholarship in her husband's memory. With hardly any effort, she has received about $ 10,000 to set up a foundation to fund the scholarship. She hopes to raise at least $ 300,000 this year.
On April 26, the acclaimed and popular singer-song writer, Susan Werner, one of the many people who cherish knowing Ron Patel, will hold a benefit concert in Philadelphia.
"He would have certainly liked the idea of a scholarship for a needy journalism student," Mary Patel, who has been married to Ron Patel for about 10 months, adds. "I am inclined to think an Indian student should get the scholarship," she continues. "But then I also feel that the scholarship should be open to anyone who really needs it."
"The loss of Ron for me is beyond devastating," Mary Patel, a writer for a Philadelphia publication, notes.
"But I know that Ron would not want me to be in perpetual mourning. Therefore, in order to preserve his name and reputation, I have organized the Ron Patel Scholarship Foundation. Ron was a credit to his profession. He was a caring and sensitive man who listened to everyone because he thought that everyone had a message to tell. I don't know why God took him so soon. I can only hope that he is looking down on all this and that his name lives on with his Foundation."
The Ron Patel Scholarship Foundation was established in February. Many editors, writers, and academics including the Columbia University journalism Professor Sreenath Sreenivasan, have offered to help establish the Foundation.
"Ron was one of the senior-most Asian American editors in the country, but he was amazingly accessible to young journalists," says Sreenivasan, a co-founder of South Asian Journalists Association.
"I would regularly send students and SAJA members his way with questions and ideas, and he would always lend them -- and me -- an ear. He talked to me at length about his father's difficulty in getting a job as a journalist in New York City back in the 1920s. But Ron not only became a journalist -- he showed how successful minority journalists can really be."
Donations, with checks payable to "Ron Patel Scholarship Fund," can be sent
Contact the Foundation at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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