Computer science graduate student
The university community is mourning the loss of one its own, Sharath Koppu, who fell victim to violence on July 7.
A native of Hyderabad, India, Koppu joined UMKC in the spring of 2018 as a computer science graduate student. According to friends and faculty, Koppu was an excellent student with vast knowledge in his field and was always willing to lend his expertise to help his peers understand core academic concepts.
“Sharath was a talented, bright young man. Though it was his first semester at UMKC, he excelled in my big data class and was a consistent performer. It is very sad that we lost a bright software engineer and data scientist to senseless violence.”
-Praveen Rao, UMKC associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering
Prior to attending UMKC, Koppu spent three years working for Indian software company, Pegasystems Worldwide, after receiving his undergraduate degree from Vasavi College of Engineering, also in India.
In an article in The New Indian Express, Koppu’s uncle, Sada Shivudu, said the 24-year-old “was the light of all the family gatherings, always smiling and encouraging all his cousins to study and work hard.” Many of his friends remember him in the same light.
“He was the perfect gentleman. Everyone wanted to have him as a friend. He was always smiling—we never saw a moment without a smile on his face—he had a welcoming nature and went out of his way to help in whatever way he could.”
– Sai Sriharsha Sudulaguntla, fellow UMKC student
Koppu was murdered during an attempted armed robbery while assisting family friends at J’s Fish and Chicken Market on 54th Street and Prospect in Kansas City, Missouri.
UMKC Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal wrote in a letter to campus “Sharath was a gifted student in the School of Computing and Engineering who had many friends among students and faculty… His violent death is shocking and painful – to his friends, and to our entire community as well.”
On the GoFundMe page set up by Koppu’s cousin, Raghu Chowdavarm, Koppu is described as cheerful, energetic and athletic.
“He had dreams like everyone else to make it big in the land of opportunity. He had a great sense of humor and always made people laugh and was always eager to lend a helping hand,” Chowdavarm wrote.
The GoFundMe account was set up to help Koppu’s family bring his remains back to India. It raised more than $50,892 in two days – more than $10,000 above the original goal of $40,000. The U.S. Indian community is also lending its support to the family.
“The university community is saddened by the tragic loss of one of our own. Sharath was an excellent student with a bright future and a wealth of potential. Like thousands of Indian students who have come before him, Sharath came to UMKC to further his education and advance his career. We share the grief of his family and friends back home in India, Kansas City and the United States. We urge witnesses to cooperate with police and share any information they have to assist in solving this case.”
– Kevin Z. Truman, dean of the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering
Three Kansas City police officers were injured July 15 while attempting to apprehend a suspect in Sharath’s murder. The suspect was killed in a shootout with police. Agrawal released the following statement after the incident:
“On behalf of the entire UMKC family, I want to express our gratitude to all of the brave first responders involved in today’s events, especially the three injured officers, along with our hopes for their speedy and full recovery. These public servants risked their lives to pursue justice for our murdered student, Sharath Koppu. Our university will continue to pursue solutions to the problems of crime and violence that bedevil urban communities across America, as well as solutions to the economic and social problems that drive these issues. We must come together as one community now to pursue peace and healing.”
Earlier in the week, Agrawal spoke with Koppu’s family and friends to offer his condolences and all the support that UMKC can offer. He reported that the family is gracious in their grief. In a recent tweet, Agrawal wrote “Sharath and I share an Indian heritage, but all of us at UMKC share in the grief such tragedies bring.”
Campus leadership is reaching out to Sharath’s friends in Kansas City and are making counseling services available to members of the university community. For any faculty, staff or students who would like to seek out counseling or support in this difficult time, please do not hesitate to reach out to the university’s Counseling Services, or directly to Arnold Abels, the director of Counseling, Health, Testing and Disability Services, 816-235-1218.