Indian Americans donated $1.2 Billion to top US Universities

Indian Americans have donated more than a billion dollars for academic work – and that’s just in this century


indica News Bureau


In the 18 years of this century, 50 Indian Americans have donated US $1.2 billion to top universities in the country, according to a report on million-plus donations.

The report released by not-for-profit Indiaspora says these Indian Americans made 68 donations of one million dollars or more between 2000 and 2018. Nearly half are repeat donors. It is a “living database” to keep abreast of Indian-American philanthropic donations to higher education, said Silicon Valley-based philanthropist and venture capitalist M R Rangaswami.

The database aims to illustrate how Indian Americans, the most highly educated ethnic minority in America, are giving back to higher education in their adopted homeland, he said.

According to the report, private universities were targeted for donation more than twice as often as public schools and receive five dollars for every two donated to public schools. University of California Los Angeles received the greatest number of donations, Harvard University and Boston University tied for second place, closely followed by the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania. Three of the 37 colleges that received donations from Indian Americans were community colleges, it said.

Universities in Massachusetts received the most money (between $250 million and $300 million), followed by those in Florida, New York and California. Among donations directed towards specific academic fields of interest, however, the two fields that received the most donations are business and medicine, closely followed by India studies and engineering.

Medicine and engineering are among some of the most stereo typically Indian professions, and by funding them in colleges “Indian-American philanthropists are improving and elevating the impacts of these fields not just for Indians, but for students from every culture,” the report said.

Medicine, engineering, and nutrition accounted for larger percentages of the total funds received than they did for number of donations: this means that donations for those fields were on average larger than donations for other academic fields, the report said.

One academic field that received comparatively small donations is South Asia studies, with assistance for India studies creating ten positions, programs, or centers to promote Indian culture.

In this, its first report, the Indiaspora Monitor of University Giving show that Indian Americans are “giving back” as a community to institutions that provide opportunities for young people of all backgrounds, the report said.

At the same time, the report notes that Indian-American philanthropy towards universities is in its infancy. If people of Indian origin residing in America continue to gain traction in US society, education, business, and politics, their philanthropic giving to colleges will only increase through the 21st century, it said.

Vijay Sanghvi, who gave $2 million to fund University of Cincinnati’s Endowed Chair in Cardiac Imaging, said: “As an immigrant and naturalized citizen of the US, Cincinnati has been this kind of place: a real home that has enabled me to thrive, build a family, a career, a community and has ultimately given the gift of belonging.”

Sunil Puri came to Rockford University at age 18 with just $150 to his name. While studying, he worked as campus security, washed dishes, and emptied bedpans in a local nursing home to pay for his education. He went on to become the founder and president of a prominent real estate company spanning the Midwest.

Puri said his father called him the night before he passed away with some final advice: “Water the flowers where you smell the roses.” Puri subsequently made multiple donations totaling $6 million to his alma mater, saying the school “never gave up on him.”

Some donors gave to institutions championing areas of study that helped both students and the society at large. Kris Gopalakrishnan is not an alum of Carnegie Mellon University but gave it $1.8 million to fuel research into brain function, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. His donation also funds research in machine learning and imaging technology to address important questions about brain cell degeneration and aging.

Successful Indian-American women were responsible for a large portion of donations studied. Philanthropic businesswoman and Grammy-nominated artist Chandrika Tandon gave USD100 million to New York University’s engineering school. She remarked that the engineering school’s “entrepreneurial spirit” made her want to donate, highlighting one of the values important to women of color striving for professional success in the US.

Satish and Yasmin Gupta donated $12 million to the University of Texas at Dallas. Accord UT Dallas not only embraced them when they arrived from India and supported their studies, it was salso the place where they fell in love. Satish and Yasmin were from different religious backgrounds and credit the American college’s culture for bringing them together years ago.

Other donors gave colleges gifts in memory of loved ones.

Mohinder Sambhi gave $1 million to UCLA to establish the Endowed Chair in Indian Music, named after his late wife Mohindar Brar Sambhi. The Sikand family gave $1 million to California State University, Los Angeles, for a faculty endowment for research in urban sustainability to commemorate Gunjit Sikand, a former civil engineering professor at the university.

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