The University Record, January 14, 1997

Associate dean, student killed in plane crash

By Rebecca A. Doyle

Betty Jean Jones

Arati Sharangpani

The University community is grieving and in shock after losing two of its members in a commuter flight crash last Thursday near the small town of Ida.

Betty Jean Jones, associate dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies and professor of theatre, and Arati Sharangpani, LS&A senior, both lost their lives in the crash. Jones was 47 and Sharangpani was 21. The Comair twin-propeller plane was bound for the Detroit Metropolitan Airport from Cincinnati. All 26 passengers and three crew members were killed.

"This is a terribly sad day for the Univeristy of Michigan," said Interim President Homer A. Neal. "Prof. Jones and Arati Sharangpani touched the lives of a great many people in our community and they will be missed."

Jones had been attending the International Senior Theatre Conference in Las Vegas with her father and had flown with him to Cincinnati, where she boarded the Comair flight to Detroit, according to Paul C. Boylan, vice provost for the arts. Boylan recruited Jones from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, in 1994 to join the U-M faculty as professor of theatre. She was named associate dean of the Graduate School in January 1996.

"Betty Jean had a remarkable and wide-ranging presence in the Graduate School and in the many places she touched in the University," says Nancy E. Cantor, vice provost for academic affairs and dean of the Graduate School. "She compellingly merged a voice for social justice and inclusiveness with the scholarly agenda of the University in the arts and humanities, never forgetting the road she had traveled and reaching out to bring others with her on the path to achievement.

"She was a model and a leader for her students, faculty colleagues and for all of us at Rackham, who loved her dearly."

"What made Betty Jean such a wonderful and highly valued colleague was the wonderful balance she had achieved between being an active practitioner as actress and director and being a serious scholar of theatre," Boylan says. "Finding someone who is actually professionally accomplished and who is equally accomplished in an academic approach to her role in studies is uncommon. She was a person who genuinely cared about learning and was devoted to her students. She cared deeply about them."

Boylan says he is certain Jones' work would have led to a major administrative responsibility at the U-M or elsewhere, if she had chosen.

Colleagues from the Theatre and Drama Department and the Graduate School plan a memorial service for the end of next week. Details will be announced in the Jan. 21 issue of the Record.

Sharangpani boarded the Comair commuter flight in Cincinnati to return to Ann Arbor for her final semester of classes. She expected degrees in German and in organizational studies in the spring, and had flown to Cincinnati for a job interview with the Proctor & Gamble Co.

Sharangpani also was resident advisor at Mary Markley Residence Hall for two years, and had served as vice president of the Indian American Students Association. She worked as facilitator for the 21st Century Program and led discussions on time and stress management, study skills and health.

"We remember her bubbly personality," says T. Rose Roane, student services associate in the Housing Division and coordinator of the Residence Education Program. "She was the sweetest, kindest person in the world." Roane says that all of the residents on Sharangpani's floor gathered together with staff last Thursday night to share memories.

"Her girls all loved her and she never had any problems," Roane remembers.

"She was a very involved student," notes Mary Hummel, director of the 21st Century Program. "She was very helpful to international students who were making transition to the University and to the United States."

Hummel says staff, both students and professional, remember her as a "very good friend, available for new staff and well-respected by everyone."

A memorial service at the U-M will be planned at a later date.