Indian American Alumni donate $1 million to UC Davis, lecture hall to be named after them


Indian American couple Dr. Ravinder and Kamaljeet Khaira have donated $1 million to UC Davis College of Biological Sciences. In recognition of the donation, the Sciences Lecture Hall will be formally renamed Ravinder and Kamaljeet Khaira Lecture Hall in the fall of 2023. This will be the first building on the UC Davis campus to carry an Indian name.

The UC Davis alumni said that their gift is meant to provide support for the college’s top priorities, and they feel confident in the leadership of Mark Winey, dean of the College of Biological Sciences, to best utilize the funding to further enhance student success initiatives, faculty excellence and advances in life sciences research. The gift, they said, is a tribute to the power education can have in uplifting individuals and families.

“Punjabi kids on campus will see a name they recognize and know that their community has a presence on campus,” said Kamaljeet. “Maybe some of them will even be inspired to give back themselves someday.”

The donation supports UC Davis’ $2 billion fundraising campaign, Expect Greater: From UC Davis, For the World, the largest philanthropic endeavor in university history. Together, donors and UC Davis are advancing work to prepare future leaders, sustain healthier communities, and bring innovative solutions to today’s most urgent challenges.

“UC Davis continues to do so much for us that we’re deciding to give back. We’re deciding to do sēvā,” said Ravinder. “We believe that life should be performed in the service of others.” Kamaljeet earned her bachelor’s (’93) and master’s (’12) degrees on campus, and Ravinder earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences (’90) from UC Davis before attending medical school. Their daughter, Meera, earned a degree in human biology from the college in 2022.

Ravinder, who grew up in Canada, enrolled at UC Davis in 1984. “The whole time I was at UC Davis, I received such good support from friends, my advisor, and really the entire campus,” he said. “It was full of great memories and great friendships, and I was surrounded by a lot of support.” Originally from San Francisco, Kamaljeet came to UC Davis in 1988 to follow in the footsteps of her older sister, Binnie Singh, who attended UC Davis for both her bachelor’s and doctorate degrees and currently serves as an assistant vice provost of academic affairs on campus. “I just remember having this lovely blend of great academics, enjoyable classwork, a good social life and meeting lifelong friends,” she said.

Kamaljeet returned to campus in 2004 to pursue a graduate degree in community and regional development. Although she frequently had to bring the couple’s then four-year-old twin daughters, Navneet and Meera, with her to class, armed with coloring crayons and snacks, she said she always felt welcomed by the faculty and graduate student community. “My professors were very supportive of a mom who was staying home with her children and also going to graduate school,” she said. “The faculty I had then were some of my greatest mentors, and now they are my friends.”

After graduating from UC Davis, the Khairas built distinguished careers that improve the health of others, with Kamal focusing on prevention and Ravi focusing on care and treatment. Ravi is currently the founding doctor and clinical director of Capital Pediatrics, which has offices in the greater Sacramento area and is becoming one of the largest independently owned pediatric medical groups in Northern California. “I don’t think we would be where we are if it weren’t for Kamaljeet,” Ravinder said. “She put her education on the back burner, paid for my medical degree, took on a senior role at the American Heart Association at 27 years of age and, at the same time, helped us build our businesses. All while also raising our daughters.”

Kamaljeet is currently the director of CalFresh Healthy Living, at the University of California, a program in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. She oversees partnerships with more than 30 UC Cooperative Extension County offices throughout California that inspire and empower underserved Californians to improve their health by promoting awareness, education, and community change through diverse partnerships, resulting in healthy eating and active living.

Under her leadership, CalFresh recently secured a $53.4 million grant from the USDA to reduce the rate of chronic disease and raise awareness of the value of nutritious foods and physical activity among low-income communities.

In addition to their gift to rename the Sciences Lecture Hall, the Khairas have previously given in support of experiential learning opportunities for undergraduates in the college. They were also the first to make a gift in support of Health Professions Advising, which is administered by the college to serve all UC Davis students and alumni pursuing careers in the health professions. Separately, Kamaljeet has supported the Ted Bradshaw Engaged Student Scholars Program, which provides volunteer experiences for selected undergraduate and graduate students in the community and regional development.

The Khairas see their contributions to UC Davis as a way to impact real change in areas that matter most to them. “We care deeply about education and health. It’s really a poverty reduction strategy when a community has advanced education and strong health,” Kamaljeet said.

“The College of Biological Sciences is a wonderful nexus of both,” Ravinder added. “UC Davis wove itself within the fabric of our lives and has been so impactful. You can’t put a price tag on that. And we want that same experience for anyone who comes to UC Davis.”

“Mark is so kind, student-oriented, brilliant, and humble. We have a great deal of confidence he’ll do the right things,” said Ravinder. “We thought a gift to the college would be money well spent, especially if Mark has the ability to use the funds as he sees fit.”

“I am deeply honored by the Khairas’ trust and confidence in me,” said Winey. “Their generosity and support of our college and campus will have far-reaching impacts on students here today, and on those who will study in the college for years to come.”



[Pic Caption:Kamaljeet Singh-Khaira and her husband Ravinder Khaira have given $1 million to the College of Biological Sciences to support student success initiatives, faculty excellence and advances in life sciences research. From left: Kamaljeet Singh-Khaira, CBS Dean Mark Winey and Ravinder Khaira (Karin Higgins / UC Davis)]


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