Michigan State University honors India’s milkman Dr Verghese Kurien

Michigan State University honors India's milkman Dr Verghese Kurien

Father of India’s White Revolution late Dr. Verghese Kurien was honored by his alma mater – the US-based Michigan State University, which unveiled his bust at its campus. Kurien’s bust was unveiled at International Center on Thursday, June 30.

“It is always an honor when your alma mater recognizes you,” Dr Kurien’s Chennai-based daughter Nirmala  told the media. “In his entire lifetime, my father had received 15 honorary doctorates from across the world but he had got his first honorary doctorate from Michigan State University – East Lansing in presence of his own teacher professor Farrell in 1965. The university has always recognized his contributions,” said Nirmala.

Kurien (1921-2012) received a master’s degree in 1948 from the MSU Department of Mechanical Engineering.  He returned to India and became the architect of India’s “white revolution,” which transformed the nation from being a milk-deficit country to the world’s biggest milk producer.

Leo Kempel, dean of the MSU College of Engineering, said Kurien is an excellent example of Spartans Will.  “No graduate from the College of Engineering, or maybe even MSU, transformed more lives than Dr. Kurien, and he used a mindset of breaking up a problem and solving it piece by piece,” Kempel explained.

Satish Udpa, MSU executive vice president of administrative services, said as a little boy in India – he would wake up early to retrieve water and the family’s daily ration of milk. By the 1980s, milk was available everywhere and the need to ration milk was gone, thanks to Spartan Engineer Verghese Kurien. “India becoming the largest producer of milk in the world was made possible entirely by this individual,” Udpa added.

“When Dr. Kurien returned to India from the USA, he was touched by the discouraging state of monopolized milk production at the time. He decided to dedicate his life not only to the empowerment of the farmers producing it, but also to make India the world’s largest producer of dairy.

“His billion-liter idea, Operation Flood, transformed India from a milk-deficient nation to the world’s largest milk producer, surpassing the United States in 1998. He made the country self-sufficient in edible oils, too.”

Kurien founded 30 institutions, which today are owned, managed by farmers, and run by professionals, Mallikarjuna explained. Kurien was responsible for the creation and success of the Amul brand of dairy products, including the invention of milk powder from buffalo milk as opposed to cow’s milk. That success led to Kurien’s appointment as the founder-chairman of the National Dairy Development Board in 1965 and a charge to replicate Amul’s model nationwide across India.

Praising his alma mater, Kurien had once said that Michigan State University had gave him “the best education money could buy.” Born in Kozhikode, Kurien had graduated in science from Loyola College in Chennai and obtained his degree in engineering from the Guindy College after which he completed his masters’ degree in mechanical engineering with dairy engineering as a minor subject from the US-based varsity in 1948.

Upon his return to India, he was assigned to a Government Creamery located at Anand to serve his bond period. But at the end of 1949, when he got release orders from his job from the Government Creamery and he was all set and eager to pack off to Mumbai, the then chairman of Amul Dairy Tribhuvandas Patel had requested him to stay in Anand and help him put his co-operative society’s dairy equipment together.

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