Indian-origin philanthropists who made the community proud in 2013

A rush of philanthropic activity to benefit society, in the US and India.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: There was a remarkable sense of giving in the year 2013, as several prominent Indians and Indian American donated generously to several causes, to benefit society, and make the world a better place to live in.

A list of some of the prominent philanthropists who made the headlines this year. Apologies to those not named here, as many donated anonymously or gave their time, services and money without being prominently featured in the news:

Satish and Yasmin Gupta

Satish and Yasmin Gupta donated a staggering $12 million to the University of Dallas in October. They made the donation to the university’s school of business, which will now be named the “Satish and Yasmin Gupta College of Business” in their honor. It is the largest donation the university has ever received in its 57-year history.

Both husband and wife are alumni of the University of Dallas, having both earned their MBAs at the institution. Satish Gupta founded SB International, Inc. in 1981, a private steel company that he has been the president and CEO of since its inception. His wife, Yasmin, is the company’s executive vice-president. Both grew up as neighbors in India, and came to the University of Dallas in 1979 to pursue their graduate degrees. Upon completion, they returned back to India, married, and then came back to Dallas to start a family.

The University of Dallas is still a relatively small school, with roughly 1,200 undergraduate students and 1,300 graduate students. It is, however, a remarkably diverse campus, with about 60% of its students coming from out-of-state, and a student population that includes citizens of over 40 countries.

Renu Khator

Renu Khator, the system chancellor and president of the University of Houston (UH), donated $100,000 towards the creation of a “tier one” scholarship in the university’s name in October.

The scholarship — which was founded jointly with Khator’s husband Suresh, who is the associate dean at the university’s Cullen College of Engineering — will be called The Renu and Suresh Khator UH Tier One Scholarship Endowment. Further funding matched the Khators’ donation, increasing the scholarship’s total to $200,000.

Khator is the 13th president of the University of Houston System of colleges. She is the first female president in the school’s history, and is the first Indian American to be the president of a major research university anywhere in the United States. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1973 from the University of Kanpur, followed by her Master’s degree in political science in 1975 and her Doctor of Philosophy degree in political science and public administration in 1985, both from Purdue University.

PNC Menon

PNC Menon, the founder of Sobha Group of Companies, with an estimated fortune of $600 million, announced in March that he will give away half of his personal wealth to charity. Dubai-based Menon, a first generation entrepreneur who began his professional career by setting up an interior decoration firm in the Sultanate of Oman in 1976, said that he plans to open education institutes in India and Oman.

Menon was ranked the Gulf Cooperation Council’s 21st richest Indian with a fortune of $600 million, in a list published last month by Arabian Business. His firm established Sobha Heritage and Sobha Academy in 2006 to provide education and social welfare to around 2,500 families in two villages in India, Vadakkenchery and Kizhakkenchery.

Realty firm Sobha Developers, where Menon holds the position of chairman emeritus, was listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange in 2006. Bangalore-based Sobha Developers was founded in 1995. The Sobha group employs 28,000 people across the Gulf and India.

Azim Premji

Azim Premji, ranked as India’s third richest person with a fortune of over $13 billion, donated $2.2 billion, or a 12% stake in his IT firm Wipro, to a trust that will fund his education-focused Azim Premji Foundation.

Premji made the announcement in February. The donation of 295.5 million shares brings down Premji’s stake in Wipro from 70% to 58% and increases the charitable trust’s holding in the company to close to 20%. With this new endowment, Premji, often referred to as India’s Bill Gates earlier for his tech wealth and now for his charity, joined the ranks of the world’s top five givers. Having donated $4.4 billion thus far, he’s given away more than Carlos Slim Helu, the world’s richest person, who’s gifted $4 billion to his foundation, said the report.

Prem Reddy

California-based physician Dr. Prem Reddy made a donation of a half-million dollars to the nursing program at the San Bernardino campus of California State University (CSUSB) in December. Reddy said that he gifted the money in order to ensure that nursing students at UCUSB receive the best education possible with state-of-the-art facilities.

Originally from a small village in Andhra Pradesh, Reddy was able to gain admission in Sri Venkateswara University Medical College, from which he graduated in 1973. Three years later, he and his wife immigrated to the US, where he became a cardiologist and a physician of internal medicine. He performed over 5,000 cardiac operations for over 25 years, before deciding to leave full-time medical practicing behind in favor of devoting all of his time to his entrepreneurial pursuits.

Starting in the early 1980s, Reddy has devoted his time to Desert Valley Medical Group, Prime Healthcare, and PrimeRx, all of which he founded and which generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue. The hospitals under his purview are routinely listed as among the best in the country.

His high-level positions in these companies affords him the ability to donate generously to medical schools and causes, with some estimates putting his philanthropy to-date at over $10 million. In 1989, Reddy founded the Desert Valley Medical Foundation, and also created the non-profit charity organization, the Dr. Prem Reddy Family Foundation.

Vijay and Khushman Sanghvi

Dr. Vijay Sanghvi, along with his wife Dr. Khushman Sanghvi, donated $2 million to a prominent US university, in the interests of advancing the school’s cardiac studies in November.

A renowned cardiologist, Sanghvi has been a part of Cincinnati’s medical community since 1966, and he calls the 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.” Before coming to the US, he earned his medical degree from Gujarat University and his post-graduate training at both McMaster University and Queens University in Ontario, Canada.

From 1971 to 1990, he was the medical director of the division of cardiology at Jewish Hospital. After that, he began operating his own private cardiology practice. Early last year, after being involved with the University of Cincinnati for many years, he became a part of the school’s Mind-Body Interface in Health and Healing Lectureship.

Ratan Tata

Harvard University formally dedicated a hall at the Harvard Business School (HBS) to Indian business tycoon and Harvard alumnus Ratan Tata at a ceremony on December 9.

Tata, who graduated from the Advanced Management Program at HBS in 1975, donated the money to build the new seven-story building, which cost an estimated $100 million. Nitin Nohria, the dean of HBS, said that Tata’s donation was “the most significant gift by an international alumnus” in the history of HBS.

Tata Hall is the final of four halls that will make up the HBS Executive Education Quad, along with McArthur, Baker, and Mellon halls. The building is 161,000 square feet large, with two amphitheaters that can seat 99 students. The main atrium is a staggering 37 feet high, and the building features 179 suites.

Tata began working for the Tata Group upon graduating from Cornell University in 1962, with a BS in architecture with structural engineering. In 1991, he became the chairman of Tata Industries. He retired from executive responsibilities at Tata on his 75th birthday – December 28th, 2012 – but maintains his emeritus standing. Over the years, he has received honorary doctorate degrees from the Asian Institute of Technology (2004), University of Cambridge (2008), IIT Bombay (2008), and IIT Kharagpur (2008).

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