A Zambian-born Indian couple has just pledged US$200 million to a Florida university – the largest donation ever from an Indian-American to a US institution.
Nova Southeastern University (NSU) has announced the largest philanthropic gift in its history from Tampa-area cardiologist Dr. Kiran C. Patel and his wife, paediatrician Dr. Pallavi Patel.
The commitment will significantly expand its programs in osteopathic medicine and health care sciences, and be used to develop a new 27-acre campus for NSU in Clearwater, Fla. The Patels are renowned in Florida for their philanthropy, community service and entrepreneurship, the university said in a statement.
“I feel that it is more important than ever to advance the current state of health care,” said Dr. Kiran C. Patel in the statement. “It is rare for someone to have the opportunity to impact the world in this way, and, as an immigrant to the United States, I am particularly honored to be able to make a difference in people’s lives around the world.”
“This partnership will benefit thousands of patients, students and doctors,” added Dr. Pallavi Patel. “Over the next 20 years, NSU will train thousands of new doctors and other health care professionals who will directly touch millions of lives, making a real difference.”
A cohort of Indian-Americans who have made their fortune in the US are increasingly turning to large-scale philanthropy. Kiran Patel’s giant gift to a Florida university is the new high-water mark, reports BBC.
Every day at school, eight-year-old Kiran Patel would watch longingly as his younger brother and friends snacked on chocolate and soda bought with their pocket money. His one shilling a day pocket money could easily pay for those goodies. But to him it was a waste – he dropped it in a piggy bank instead. In a few years, he had saved enough to buy the ship fare from Zambia to India for himself, his parents and his two siblings – their first trip home in 12 years, the report added.
Six decades later, Dr Kiran C Patel recounts the story aboard his 14-seater private Bombardier jet on his way to Tampa, Florida. He has come a long way from that small town in Zambia.
“I learnt a few very early lessons in life,” he says in the BBC interview. “A penny saved is a penny earned and one should drop it where it makes the maximum impact.”
Patel grew up in apartheid-era Zambia, where he had to move 80km to go to school as there was none in his town for non-white students. He attended medical school in India and moved to the US with his wife, also a medical doctor, on Thanksgiving Day in 1976.
Patel went from cardiologist to businessman when he created a network of physicians with different specialities. But the real breakthrough came in 1992 when he took over a health insurance company on the verge of bankruptcy.
Ten years later when the Patels sold the firm, it had more than 400,000 members and revenue in excess of $1bn. His business empire is not without controversy – earlier this year, two of his businesses paid more than $30m in a settlement after accusations of artificially inflating costs for care. The firm has not admitted wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
Patel likes to call himself an “aggressive entrepreneur” and believes in the old Gujarati adage “When the goddess of wealth comes knocking, don’t run away to wash your face”.
“I’m a risk taker and a 90 miles per hour guy, always pressing the accelerator,” he says, then points to his wife of 44 years Dr Pallavi Patel. “She is the one who applies the brakes.”
In recent years, many successful Indian-Americans have changed their giving habits, moving from donations to temples and religious institutions to using their newly acquired wealth to shape societies back home and in the United States.
The Patels are not alone in the scale of their givings. New York couple Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon pledged $100m to the NYU School of Engineering in 2015. The Sanju Bansal foundation provides backing to a number of non-profits and foundations in the Washington, DC area.
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