Rajen Kilachand (GSM’74)

Honoring the liberal arts

An Indian philanthropist celebrates old ties with BU—and opens new doors to the future

In the fall of 2011, Rajen Kilachand—a Dubai-based global entrepreneur, a member of the School of Management’s Class of 1974, and a member of the BU Board of Trustees—pledged $25 million to support the Honors College at Boston University.

The gift was the largest in the history of the University.

“I am deeply grateful to Rajen Kilachand for his vision and his commitment to our Honors College, which serves our highest achieving students,” said BU President Robert A. Brown, in announcing the gift. “His magnificent gift will create an endowment for the Kilachand Honors College that will increase the quality of this innovative program and the range of opportunities it offers for all future generations of Boston University students.”

In the wake of the gift, the College was renamed the Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Honors College, in honor of Kilachand’s parents.

Kilachand is chair and president of the Dodsal Group, a multinational conglomerate that holds interests in engineering, mining, trading, and hospitality businesses. He is also a committed philanthropist, whose social initiatives span a spectrum of giving—from sponsoring music and art festivals to funding community theaters and AIDS awareness programs in Africa and Papua New Guinea.

His family’s connections with Boston University predate his own arrival in Boston—in 1970, to begin his MBA studies at SMG—by nearly 100 years. According to family history, his great-grandfather started a cotton exporting business in Bombay in the 1880s. Among his customers was the Lawrence family, the prominent New England industrialists who built the textile mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and—coincidentally—the Gothic Revival mansion now known as Sloane House, which serves as the home of President Brown and his wife Beverly.

Kilachand says that when he first came to BU, he was struck by the “tremendous philanthropy” of those who built this country. “Whether it was the Mellons, the Carnegies, or the Rockefellers, it was giving for education,” he says. “That’s why today the United States is one of the great centers of higher learning. It is second to none in the world.”

A longtime philanthropist himself, Kilachand serves on the board of Pathfinder International, a global nonprofit that focuses on reproductive health, family planning, and HIV/AIDS prevention and care, and he is the only foreign sponsor of the New Orleans Jazz Festival. He also supports Dubai Cares, an initiative of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. Over the years, Kilachand has made a personal commitment of more than $50 million to philanthropic initiatives in health care and vocational training and education, including building libraries and teacher training institutions.

Kilachand hopes his gift will help students gain the knowledge that will enable them to achieve the greatness of earlier generations. “Young men and women in this country need to go out in the world with open minds and no preconceived notions,” he explains. “They have to free their minds to do the kinds of things their founding fathers did. They have to go out into the world and build.”

Update: At a black-tie dinner the night before the Celebration of BU, campaign chair and trustee Kenneth Feld (SMG’70) announced that Kilachand had pledged an additional $10 million to the cause, bringing his total gift up to $35 million. In recognition of Kilachand’s extraordinary generosity, BU will rename Shelton Hall “Kilachand Hall,” and dedicate that building to the use of the Honors College endowed by Kilachand in honor of his parents.

Why Rajen Kilachand Gave

“My late great-grandfather and his sons have been great philanthropists in India,” says Rajen Kilachand, “and we continue today, all in our separate ways. I have been focusing more and more on my passion for education for children and for medical aid, but education is the key driver of how we handle the future. I was lucky to be educated at BU. It’s a big part of what shaped me. So what better place is there to give a gift to than the institution that accepted me with open arms?”

Learn more

Kilachand Honors College is a four-year undergraduate program that offers students the small classes, personal attention, close interaction with faculty, and the communal atmosphere of a small liberal arts college together with the intellectual range and resources of a major urban research university. Learn more about KHC.