Why Are These Indian Americans Donating Millions of Dollars to US Higher Education?

Vijay Sanghvi, MD being honored during a Nov. 25, 2013 reception for establishing the Drs. Vijay and Khushman Sanghvi Endowment Chair in Cardiac Imaging. Photo: University of Cincinnati.)
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WASHINGTON, DC—Now we know that Indian-Americans are donating to US higher education, colleges and universities. According to a groundbreaking study and research by Indiaspora, 50 Indian-Americans have donated more than $1.2 billion to US higher education.

Kudos to Indiaspora, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform the ​success of Indian Americans into meaningful impact worldwide, for this study. Furthermore, Indiaspora delved deeper into the background of several donations to better understand donor rationale and motivations.

Related article:

50 Indian Americans Have Donated $1.2 Billion to US Higher Education

“The most prevalent motive cited by Indian Americans for their philanthropy towards higher education is the desire as alumni to give back to the colleges and universities that supported them when they first came to America as Indian immigrants,” Indiaspora said its inaugural Indiaspora Monitor of University Giving 2018 report. “These donors often credit the college or university they are giving back to for launching them on the path towards their extremely successful careers.”

The following profiles and interviews are reprinted here from the Indiaspora Monitor of University Giving 2018 report:

Vijay Sanghvi, MD being honored during a Nov. 25, 2013 reception for establishing the Drs. Vijay and Khushman Sanghvi Endowment Chair in Cardiac Imaging. Photo: University of Cincinnati.)

Late Vijay Sanghvi (1935-2015)

Vijay Sanghvi, who gave $2 million to fund University of Cincinnati’s Endowed Chair in Cardiac Imaging, (had) said: “As an immigrant and naturalized citizen of the U.S., Cincinnati has been this kind of 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.”

Sunil Puri

Sunil Puri (Photo: First Midwest Group website)

Sunil Puri came to Rockford University at age 18 with just $150 to his name. While studying, he worked as campus security, washed dishes, and emptied bedpans in a local nursing home to be able to pay for his education. He would go on to be the founder and president of a prominent real estate development, redevelopment and property management company spanning the Midwest.

Puri said his father called him the night before he passed away with some final advice: “Water the flowers where you smell the roses.” Puri subsequently made multiple donations totaling $6 million to his alma mater, saying the school “never gave up on him.”

Some donors gave to institutions championing critical areas of study in order to benefit not only students, but society overall.

Kris Gopalakrishnan (Photo: Twitter)

Kris Gopalakrishnan

Kris Gopalakrishnan is not an alum of Carnegie Mellon University, yet he gave the college $1.8 million dollars to conduct more research on brain function, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. 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.


Successful Indian-American women were responsible for a large portion of donations studied.

Chandrika Tandon (Photo: YouTube)

Chandrika Tandon

Philanthropic businesswoman and Grammy-nominated artist Chandrika Tandon gave $100 million to New York University’s engineering school. She remarked that the engineering school’s “entrepreneurial spirit” made her want to donate, highlighting one of the values important to women of color striving for professional success in the U.S.

She said: “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.”

Satish and Yasmin Gupta (Photo: University of Dallas)

Satish and Yasmin Gupta

Satish and Yasmin Gupta donated $12 million to The University of Texas at Dallas, because the college holds a special place in their hearts. UT Dallas not only embraced them when they arrived from India and supported them in their studies, it was the place where they fell in love.

Satish and Yasmin were from different religious backgrounds and credit the American college’s culture for bringing them together years ago. After donating to construct the new building for the College of Business, they said “We want to help show that we can all live together in harmony and work together to make the world a better place.”

Other donors gave colleges gifts in memory of loved ones.

Mohinder Sambhi (Photo: India Journal)

Late Mohinder Sambhi (1926-2015)

Mohinder Sambhi gave $1 million to UCLA to establish the Endowed Chair in Indian Music, named after his late wife Mohindar Brar Sambhi.

Sikand family

The Sikand family gave $1 million to California State University, Los Angeles, for a Faculty Endowment for Research in Urban Sustainability to commemorate Gunjit Sikand, a former civil engineering professor at the university.

It was not only people of Indian origin residing in the U.S. and identifying as Indian-American who felt the desire to give to American colleges. Even Indians without a connection to America gave because they saw benefiting American colleges as a way to positively affect young minds.

Anand Mahindra (Photo: Twitter)

Anand Mahindra

Anand Mahindra, an Indian resident and the only person in the database who donated to a humanities field other than South Asian Studies, gave $10 million to Harvard University to found the interdisciplinary Mahindra Humanities Center.

He told Indiaspora, “The world of ideas and intellectual exchange is truly borderless [and I think] the humanities offer the most fertile canvas for broad-based thinking and empathy that transcends cultural limits and enables us to see each other as human beings first.”

Sumir Chadha (Photo: Princeton University)

Sumir Chadha

Sumir Chadha gave a gift to his alma mater, Princeton University, to establish the M.S. Chadha Center for Global India which brings together students and scholars of all disciplines to broadly explore contemporary India. The center was named in honor of his grandfather, a distinguished physician who served as the Director General of Health Service for India.

Sumir notes, “India’s development since I attended Princeton University 25 years ago has been remarkable in many areas — economic progress, entrepreneurship, innovation and the arts. Applying Princeton’s world-class scholarship to the study of India will be of great benefit to India, Princeton and the world at large. I am grateful to President Eisgruber for his leadership in extending Princeton’s global reach through this important initiative. It also gives me tremendous pleasure to honor my grandfather, who was a great human being and mentor to me, by naming this center for him.”


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