Ajeenkya DY Patil University, based in Pune, Maharashtra, confers D.Litt. on Indian American entrepreneur and community leader Danny Gaekwad.
Prominent Florida hotelier, real estate developer and Republican donor Danny Gaekwad has received a honorary doctorate from the Ajeenkya DY Patil University, based in Pune, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.
The Doctor of Letters Honoris Causa (D.Litt.) degree was conferred on the Ocala, FL, resident during ADYPU’s sixth graduation ceremony, which was held virtually on January 28.
“I am humbled and honored to receive the doctorate from ADYPU,” Gaekwad told the American Bazaar by phone. “I thank President Ajeenkya DY Patil and other university leaders for this great honor bestowed upon me.”
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Gaekwad was one of the four leaders from different fields to receive the D.Litt. degree. The other three — all Indians — were National Film Awards-winning director Nagraj Manjule, Pinnacle Industries Chairman Sudhir Mehta and Dr. R. Vasudevan, a dean and professor at Thiagarajar College of Engineering, based in Madurai, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
“Even though my background is business, education is an area that is very close to my heart,” said Gaekwad, who is a member of the board of trustees of the University of Central Florida. “Therefore, I am all the more delighted to receive this D.Litt, from ADYPU.”
The convocation address was delivered by Nobel laureate Dr. Gregg L. Semenza. “The world needs young leaders who understand that the major challenges like the pandemic and climate crisis require a global response and international cooperation and I am optimistic that the younger generation will succeed with their firm resolve to make a difference,” said Semenza, who won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2019.
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More than 750 graduating students received degrees in different fields at the convocation. The university has nine schools, offering more than 80 undergraduate and postgraduate programs.
The D.Litt. was the second recognition Gaekwad received in two weeks.
On January 14, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs honored him with the Martin Luther King Celebration of Service Award. Describing the him as a “fearless [and ] talented Indian American entrepreneur,” the department said the award was in recognition of Gaekwad’s support to the Indian Consulate General in Atlanta and for his “promotion of meaningful business and community relations.”
Gaekwad, 61, owns and operates several companies in real estate, hospitality and information technology industries. His company Danny G. Management operates seven hotels, including a number of premium brands.
The Indian American entrepreneur, subject of a recent documentary that will be streamed on a soon-to-be-launched platform DesiMax, is also an influential figure in Florida’s Republican politics, having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates running for local, state and national offices.
“In Florida, no one seriously pursues public office without coming to see Danny Gaekwad,” former Florida State Senator Dennis K. Baxley says in the documentary. “Because they know he brings not only his commitment, his vision, his judgment, but he’s all in. When he’s with you, he brings his resources to bear he brings his relationships to bear.”
Gaekwad, who was born in Baroda, came to the United States in 1987. His maiden business venture in the country was a convenience store in suburban Orlando. By the mid-1990s, he and wife, Manisha, built and sold 26 convenience stores.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott attends ground-breaking of Indian American Danny Gaekwad’s Ocala hotel (March 24, 2018)
Gov. Scott appoints Danny Gaekwad to University of Central Florida Board of Trustees (February 16, 2018)
Indian American Danny Gaekwad buys Orlando’s iconic Church Street Exchange Building (January 31, 2018)