You could see them in LSU sunshine, a ribbon of runners tracing a path around the Parade Grounds. They belonged not to a club, as Satish Verma would tell it, but to a camaraderie formed in the absence of rules, united by the sheer will to take on Baton Rouge's punishing heat for six miles at a stretch. The group gathered on occasion to celebrate their friendships. Max LaBranche, an attorney with a home as open as his heart, hosted cochon de laits and crawfish boils; LSU language professor Joe Ricapito told tales of Italy.
Satish Verma would be among them, a quiet man who - on such occasions - would crack a K&B beer and a smile, feeling at home in a place that was 12,000 miles from his native India.
LSU was his life and family. “Everything is good about it,” he said in the few days before passing away at 93 this month.
He first came to LSU in the mid-1960s, earning his master’s degree from LSU in Science. He owed this chance to the civil rights movement, which indirectly prompted the United States to stop favoring immigrants from European countries. The Vermas were among only 20 or so Indian families in Baton Rouge when Satish later earned a doctorate in 1971. LSU leaders were so impressed that they asked him to stay and teach in the Extension Education department, which he did for the next 60 years.
Knowing that he could not save the whole world, he decided to do what he could in his corner of it. His gift was teaching graduate students from everywhere. At the end of the semester, they would gather at his home in Kenilworth for a meal of Indian-spiced barbecue chicken, returning eventually to their own countries to share what Dr. Verma had taught them.
A professor emeritus in LSU Agriculture Center, Dr. Verma contributed almost to the end of his life. Even this year, he was reviewing dissertations brought to him by his colleague and brother from another mother, Dr. Michael Burnett. They were thick as thieves.
Satish looked like he was preoccupied by serious matters, but that was a cover for being a bit of a wallflower. Here are a few things most didn’t know about him.
He loved to sing and had a spiritual voice that quieted a room. He was captain of his college cricket team. He sat in section U-19 in Tiger Stadium, never opting for better seats because he had grown fond of the people who sat near him every season. He only cursed at LSU games, with his wife, Nirmala, knitting in the seat next to him.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in dairy science, he started a cheese factory with his father in Karnal, India, where Satish taught at the National Dairy Research Institute. Later, he completed his Doctorate in Education at LSU, and as a professor, Division Leader and Specialist at LSU, he taught around the globe, his wife returning from each place with a doll for display in their home of more than 50 years.
He relished a tough weekend tennis match, sticking to a traditional wood Bancroft racquet instead of switching to the fancy metal ones that were taking over the game. During football season, Satish worked on the sports desk at the Morning Advocate, spinning phoned-in high school games into stories of heroism by athletes across Louisiana.
He saw no need to argue over the Oxford comma.
Enough already, he’d say. But there’s one more thing: he loved his six grandchildren. He went to their soccer games and tennis matches; he ferried them in his Ford sedan to far-flung events through Baton Rouge traffic.
In the last three years of his life, Darlene Rayborn took care of him and his wife. Two or so weeks ago, Satish asked Darlene for Popeye’s. She gave him a full-leaded Coke and his favorite Dark Chocolate M&M’s. His take: “These are wonderful days of my life.” He thanked her for their love and friendship. Darlene has been our angel from day one. She is a force to be reckoned with.
His people who are still here in America: daughters Sheetal Verma-Bueche and Madhu Bhushan, son Mukul Verma, and six grandkids: Neelabh, Nikhil and Nishant, all Bhushans; Logan and Malini, both Bueches, and Maya Verma, who sings as beautifully as her grandfather did. His daughter-in-law, Lisa Verma, and sons-in-law, James Bueche and Rajat Bhushan.
A memorial visitation will take place at Resthaven Funeral Home on Friday, November 17, 2023, beginning at 4:00 PM until 6:00 PM.
Family and friends may sign the online guestbook or leave a personal note to the family at www.resthavenbatonrouge.com.
Godspeed, Papa. You did your part.