Obituary: Geeta Chowdhry, political science professor and former chair

Geeta Chowdhry

Geeta ChowdhryThe university community is remembering a respected and admired professor who passed away earlier this week.

Geeta Chowdhry, a professor and former chair of the Department of Politics and International Affairs, died while in India with her family on Jan. 13, 2014. She was 57.

“Geeta was a very generous, student-oriented professor and a committed scholar,” said Fred Solop, chair of the Department of Politics and International Affairs. “She was a dynamic force for our department and across campus. We will miss her tremendously, and our thoughts are with her family.”

Dr. Chowdhry came to NAU in 1989 as an assistant professor of political science. Previously she taught at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. She earned her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Florida and her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from St. John’s College in Agra, India, where she grew up.

Dr. Chowdhry’s research and teaching interests were wide-ranging and tended toward global social, racial and gender inequalities and injustices. More specifically, her interests in international relations, development and developing societies, gender and development, post-colonialism, feminist theory, race and ethnicity, South Asia and India, led to her study of pressing global issues, among them food security, poverty and child labor.

Tribute to Geeta Chowdhry planned

A public celebration of Geeta Chowdhry’s life will be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 11, in the Cline Library Auditorium at Northern Arizona University.

Condolences and memories may be shared on this Facebook page.

Her leadership impacted many programs and initiatives at NAU. From 2011 to 2013, Dr. Chowdhry chaired the department of politics and international affairs. She also has served as the director of the Ethnic Studies Program—a role which her colleague Sara Alemán described as “integral” to its growth and development; coordinator for the Asian Studies Program; and interim director of Women’s Studies. She was a founding member and faculty co-chair of the Commission on Ethnic Diversity and served on a number of department and campuswide committees.

“This is a profound loss—both personally and professionally,” said Sheila Nair, professor of politics and international affairs. “Geeta’s impact on my life and the many others who knew her as a beloved and inspiring teacher, friend, mentor and colleague will be celebrated and honored as part of her amazing legacy. Above all, she was a devoted mother and wife, and a beloved sister and aunt.”

She was revered by both graduate and undergraduate students and was many times named as an influential mentor to students receiving the Gold Axe Award. In 2008, Dr. Chowdhry was named among the first President’s Distinguished Teaching Fellows. Her other awards and honors include the President’s Diversity Award and the President’s Award for Faculty and Academic Professionals. She was twice awarded the Outstanding Teaching in Political Science award by the American Political Science Association and Phi Beta Kappa. In 2004-05, she served as the elected chair of the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies section of the International Studies Association.

“She was a dearly valued friend and colleague,” said Cynthia Kosso, associate vice president and professor of history. “She had a kind and gentle sense of humor and a vision for a better world that touched the lives of friends, family, students and colleagues.”

Dr. Chowdhry is survived by her husband, Mark Beeman, a professor of sociology and social work at NAU; their son Jai Chowdhry Beeman; and her siblings Meera Shankar, Sudha Sarin and Ajay Kumar Singh, and their families. She was preceded in death by her parents Jai Narayan and Tripti Devi.

Funeral services were held this week in India. A celebration of her life is planned for March 11 in Flagstaff.