Drs. Kiran & Pallavi Patel top the list of nearly 50 Indian-Americans who have donated a total of more than $1.2 billion to various colleges and universities as a way of giving back to higher education since the year 2000, according to a study conducted by Indiaspora, a nonprofit organization which says its mission is to transform the success of the community into meaningful impact worldwide.
According to a press release, Indiaspora has created the Monitor of University Giving, which it says is a “living database” to keep track of donations given to universities and other higher education programs by Indian Americans.
Fifty different donors made the 68 donations that were analyzed for the study, the first in a series conducted by Indiaspora, a nonprofit organization that aims to transform the success of Indian Americans into meaningful impact worldwide. The study showed that about 47 percent of the donations are from repeat donors who had also given $1 million or more to either the same or a different university or college.
The goal of this database is to illustrate how Indian-Americans are giving back to higher education in their adopted homeland. However, it only keeps track of donations amounting of $1 million or more, which it says would could cause an under-reporting of the results.
Some of the other prominent among those who have donated to the cause of education are: Sumir Chadha, Desh Deshpande, Kris Gopalkrishnan, Raj Gupta, Deepak Raj, Anand Rajaraman, and Sanjay Swani.
The largest-ever donation by an Indian American to a U.S educational institution was made by Pallavi and Kiran Patel, a $225 million donation in 2017 to Nova Southeastern University in Florida to build a new medical school in Clearwater.
The Patels followed in the footsteps of Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon, who in 2015 gave $100 million to New York University’s engineering school. “The imagination and inventiveness of the students and faculty as they worked together on real world problems; the cutting-edge work being done both within the school and collaboratively across schools in such diverse areas like the arts, medicine, education, incubators; the entrepreneurial spirit that pervades the place — all this inspired us so,” said Chandrika Tandon, as quoted in the Indiaspora report.
Dubai businessman Rajen Kilachand is also one of the largest donors to a U.S. educational institution. In 2017, Kilachand made a $115 million gift to Boston University’s Science and Engineering Schools.
The Indiaspora report also noted donations made by Indian Americans to universities that were not their alma maters. Rangaswami cited the $61 million donation of Ram Shriram, an early backer of Google, to create the Shriram Center for Bioengineering & Chemical Engineering at Stanford University. Shriram attended the University of Madras and Loyola College.
Similarly, Kris Gopalakrishnan, a co-founder of Infosys, graduated from IIT Madras, but has donated $1.8 million to Carnegie Mellon University to conduct research on brain function, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s Disease.
His donation also funds research in disciplines such as machine learning and imaging technology to attempt to address important questions concerning neuro-degeneration and the aging process, according to the Indiaspora report.
Nearly half of the donations are by individuals who donated more than once, “indicating how passionately Indian Americans feel towards giving back to American institutions of higher education, in many but not all cases, their alma maters,” Indiaspora says.
According to the study, a total of 37 different colleges received these donations and while private universities received more than one donation, public universities received $5 for every $2 donated to them.
The five universities which received the most donations were University of California, Los Angeles, Harvard University, Boston University, the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania.
“While Indian Americans continue to donate time and money towards causes in India, our community also believes that charity begins at home. Indian Americans are acutely aware of the vital role played by American Institutions of Higher Education in their professional success stories, and many of us consider it a moral obligation to give back and pay it forward for the next generation of Americans,” M.R. Rangaswami, founder of Indiaspora, is quoted saying in the press release.
Business schools received the largest share of gifts – 23.5 percent – followed by medicine – 20.6 percent – and South Asian studies – 17.6 percent. Surprisingly, donations to support engineering schools received slightly less than 12 percent of donations; computer science and technology schools received negligible sums.
Gifts to support schools of humanities were also negligible – 1.5 percent. One notable donation for this field was businessman Anand Mahindra’s $10 million donation in 2011 to found the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard. Mahindra received his MBA at Harvard in 1981.