After earning an MBA at BU in 1974, Rajen Kilachand returned to India, where he greatly expanded his family’s business. BU was a fond and faraway memory. Then, a few years ago, he got an email from President Robert A. Brown, who happened to be traveling to Dubai, where Kilachand had based his booming conglomerate. Could they meet? “I didn’t know who he was,” Kilachand confesses.
They met. Brown and Scott Nichols, BU senior vice president for development and alumni relations, explained their determination to reacquaint the University and its international alumni, especially those outside of Europe, says Kilachand (GSM’74), who has since become a BU trustee. “Bob has really connected with the people outside the United States who got educated here and who had practically forgotten about it.”
As BU increasingly shakes hands with alumni living in distant lands, those alumni have shown remarkable generosity. Kilachand last fall pledged a record $25 million to endow the University’s new honors college, which has been named the Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Honors College in honor of his parents. While University officials say that donations from international alumni remain a small percentage of overall giving, they note that a number of sizable gifts are remaking areas of BU’s teaching and research. In 2010, Lebanese businessman and trustee Bahaa Hariri (SMG’90) pledged $15 million for a 21st-century computation institute, which opened last fall. The School of Management building is named for Hariri’s father, assassinated Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik B. Hariri (Hon.’86), a former trustee, whose 1996 gift of $10 million built the structure. In 2008, India-born Shamim Dahod (CGS’76, CAS’78, MED’87), a University overseer and now a Chelmsford, Mass., physician, and her husband, Ashraf, pledged $10.5 million to the School of Medicine, its largest gift ever. That same year, Chinese alumni greeted Brown on his first visit to their country as president with $1 million to expand BU’s activities in China.
Three of the biggest gifts in BU‘s history have come from people born outside the United States.
The big gifts recently received by BU reveal the emergence of committed philanthropists from the Middle East and Asia. In Korea, for example, the parent of an alum anonymously has given $1 million, while Young-Jae Han (GSM’79), who was given a Boston University Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009, pledged $500,000. In China, BU trustee Hugo Shong (COM’87, GRS’92) has made a “substantial commitment” to BU, says Nichols, while Xinhua Howard Zhang (LAW’93) has pledged or donated $250,000 to BU in recent years. From Hong Kong, parent Hing Wah Cheung has given $500,000 and Hup Fong (SMG’67) $250,000.
“International giving has only recently become an important focus for BU,” says Nichols. “What President Brown and others have discovered in their recent travels around the world is a deep reservoir of goodwill toward BU. People are willing to donate their time, energy, and money to the University.”
Encouraging gifts from international donors is, to some extent, a simple matter of arithmetic. For one thing, there are lots of them—BU has 26,000 alumni abroad, and “they’re disproportionately successful,” Nichols says.
For another, the number of international students who will someday join the ranks of BU alumni is growing. The Class of 2016 boasts the highest percentage of international students in BU’s history—18 percent, up from 16.1 percent last year. Most hail from China, South Korea, India, Canada, and Singapore.
“BU has to go international,” Kilachand says. “In India alone 60 percent are under the age of 32. I can tell you that BU is a brand in India. It’s a brand with great love and affection.” ■