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Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon gift $100 Million to NYU Polytechnic

The engineering and tech school rooted in a 161-year-old tradition of innovation will be renamed the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. It's the largest philanthropic gift by a member of the Indian-American community.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   06-10-2015

New York power couple Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon are gifting $100 million to New York University's engineering school. Photo: Hollenshead/ NYU Photo Bureau.

Today Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon are famous at NYU-Poly, a top engineering, applied sciences and tech school, for having just written a staggering $100 million check for engineering at New York University. It's the largest gift NYU-Poly has ever announced in the school’s nearly 161-year history.

NYU President John Sexton announced on Monday that the school will be re-named the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in recognition of the Tandons’ generosity.

"Ranjan and I are great believers in STEM education, in the applied sciences, and in the analytic and creative disciplines that such an education develops," says high-profile executive Chandrika Krishnamurthy Tandon, who herself graduated from the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad.

Tandon was among the first Indian women to be hired by blue blooded corporate consulting firm McKinsey & Co., where she rose to become a partner. She is chair of Tandon Capital Associates, a financial advisory firm she founded in 1992. She is also sister of PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi.

There are plenty of executives who are accomplished musicians and performers. But among prominent business people, only 61-year-old Tandon can boast a 2011 Grammy nomination. Her album of Sanskrit chants, "Soul Call" didn't win, but she says she has "purity of purpose" to share her modern, multicultural take on Indian music with global audiences. She has three more albums on the way.

Her husband, Ranjan Tandon, is an engineer by training and a graduate of the Harvard Business School. He is founder and chair of Libra Advisors, a hedge fund he founded in 1990.

There are all sorts of reasons why people make donations. It can make them happy, for one thing, generating the “warm glow” of giving described succinctly by economist James Andreoni. The Tandons for their part claim they were inspired to give back to a city that had nurtured them.

"We want to give back to the city that has given us so much. Our hope is that this gift will bring many more of us together to reinvent engineering, advance New York’s efforts to become a science and tech capital, and foster the talents of young innovators, applied scientists, and entrepreneurs," said Tandon.

Tandon joined NYU’s Board in 2010 after serving as a member of the Board of NYU’s business school and leading the NYU President’s Global Council. The Tandons have challenged NYU to raise a separate $50 million for scholarships, and the administration said it would oblige.

According to the "Wall Street Journal," the NYU Tandon School of Engineering will join other schools at the university that are named for prized donors. NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development is named for Michael and Judy Steinhardt, who donated $10 million to the institute. The university’s Tisch School of the Arts is named for members of the Tisch family, who also donated.

Funds from the gift will be used to:

  • Enhance programs for which NYU engineering is already recognized, including wireless, cybersecurity, and digital education and gaming.
     
  • Boost other programs, including bio-engineering, digital media, urban issues, and materials.
     
  • Enhance interdisciplinary programs such as financial engineering, technology management and innovation, and entrepreneurship in important areas such as clean energy.
     
  • Hire new faculty.

“Engineering is at the core of so many aspects of our lives, and the Tandons' generosity will heighten our school’s already significant transformative role in the economy, medical advances, communications, and applied sciences. It is clear that the School is poised for higher levels of excellence," said Katepalli R. Sreenivasan, dean of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

"As a fellow native of India, I am deeply moved that the Tandons have chosen to support our path to academic excellence in this way and hope that their gift will inspire other successful Indians wherever they have chosen to live, to engage in large-scale philanthropy,” Sreenivasan added.

The institute was set up 161 years ago in 1854, when the NYU School of Civil Engineering and Architecture as well as the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute were founded. In 2014, after a merger, the institute became the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, one of New York University's 19 institutes.

 

Uttara Choudhury is Editor, North America for TV 18’s Firstpost news site and a writer for Forbes India. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.

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