Photo: From left, Gopi Podila, Adriel Johnson and Maria Ragland Davis
On Friday, the biology department lost its leader and two professors in a point-blank hail of gunfire by disgruntled Harvard-educated professor Amy Bishop, according to police.
Photo: Amy Bishop.
Killed were Gopi K. Podila, the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences, and professors Adriel Johnson and Maria Ragland Davis. Three others were wounded. Professor Joseph Leahy remained in critical condition, and staffer Stephanie Monticciolo was in serious condition Tuesday; Luis Cruz-Vera, was released from the hospital.
The rampage left a small department without its leader, Podila, who was described as the group's "glue" by colleagues, according to the New York Times.
Podila, a native of India in his early fifties, was well known in Huntsville's Indian community and described by the paper as "an enthusiastic administrator with a research interest in biofuels and the symbiotic relationship between fungi and trees."
Author of over 90 publications, Podila was an accomplished biologist who was well known around the world, according to an online vigil.
Johnson, 52, had longtime ties to North Carolina State University, receiving his doctorate in 1989, according to CBS affiliate WRAL. After receiving his degree Johnson was soon hired by the University of Alabama-Huntsville where his research focused on diabetes, according to the New York Times. He was adamant about helping students who wanted to go to medical school and made it his mission to help minority students succeed, colleagues told the paper.
The 50-year-old Davis was a passionate gardener who wanted to improve agriculture in developing countries by creating plants that could thrive in inferior soil, according to the Times. Her husband, Sammie Lee Davis, said his wife was a researcher who had tenure at the university.
In a brief phone interview by The Associated Press, he said he was told his wife was at a meeting to discuss the tenure status of another faculty member who got angry and started shooting.
He said his wife had mentioned the alleged shooter before, describing Bishop as "not being able to deal with reality" and "not as good as she thought she was."
All three victims were married with children. Podila had two teenage daughters, Johnson had two teenage sons, and Davis had three stepchildren.
The Huntsville campus where the shootings occurred has about 7,500 students in northern Alabama, not far from the Tennessee line. The university is known for its scientific and engineering programs and often works closely with NASA. The space agency has a research center on the school's campus, where many scientists and engineers from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center perform Earth and space science research and development.
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