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Honoring BU’s Brightest Stars

Four alumni receive University’s top award this weekend

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Parul Vadehra (COM’03) (from top), Roger Dorf (ENG’70), Christine Hunter (CAS’80, MED’80), and Howard Koh (SPH’95).

Like many nonprofits, New Delhi–based Love & Care grew from modest beginnings, this one in a village schoolroom just outside the capital. The space functioned as an outpatient health center for the villagers, who were mostly poor and illiterate.

A quarter century later, the nongovernmental organization employs a staff of 48 and offers programs in health care, education, community development, and youth and female empowerment in more than 80 New Delhi slums.

“We have reached out to about 30 million people in the past 25 years,” says Love & Care trustee Parul Vadehra (COM’03), whose father-in-law founded the charity in 1986. “It’s a number to be proud of.”

Vadehra is one of four alums who will be honored this weekend with Alumni Awards, the highest award Boston University bestows on its graduates. Distinguished Alumni Awards will be presented to Roger Dorf (ENG’70), retired vice president of Cisco Systems; Christine Hunter (CAS’80, MED’80), a U.S. Navy rear admiral and deputy director of TRICARE Management Activity, which coordinates health care for military beneficiaries around the world; and Howard Koh (SPH’95), assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Read an interview with Howard Koh here.) Vadehra will receive the Young Alumni Award.

Dorf retired from Cisco Systems in 2009. He was appointed vice president in December 2007, when the company acquired Navini Networks, where he had been president and CEO. Previously, he was CEO of Celite Systems. Dorf has also held senior management positions at IBM, AT&T, Nortel Network, and Synch Research. He is chair of the board of AirWalk Communications and is a member of the College of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Council.

Hunter, who completed her residency in internal medicine and fellowship in hematology/oncology at Naval Medical Center San Diego, was director of medical services there from 1995 to 1998. She was executive assistant to the U.S. Surgeon General until 2000, when she assumed command of Naval Hospital Bremerton in Washington state. She later became chief of staff of the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. She has been TRICARE deputy director since 2009.

As assistant secretary for health, Koh is the senior public health advisor to the secretary, Kathleen Sebelius. Before that, he was the Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health, associate dean for public health practice, and director of the division of public health practice at the Harvard School of Public Health. As Massachusetts commissioner of public health from 1997 to 2003, he led the commonwealth’s department of public health, which included a range of health services, four hospitals, and a staff of more than 3,000.

The 64th annual BU Alumni Awards ceremony and luncheon, part of Alumni Weekend, will take place on Saturday, October 30, at noon in the George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom.

After graduating from BU, Vadehra worked in public relations in Boston and in her native New Delhi. In 2007, she joined her husband’s family business, Vadehra Art Gallery, which promotes modern and contemporary Indian art.

“When my father-in-law started the gallery in 1987, modern and contemporary Indian art was literally nonexistent,” says Vadehra, who handles public relations. “In the past, it was religious paintings that have done well, bronzes and antiquities, but there really wasn’t a market for modern art.”

India saw a boom in the art market in the mid to late ’90s, she says. Now, the number of collectors and institutions that promote public understanding and appreciation of art is on the rise. (Vadehra volunteers for one of those organizations, the nonprofit Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art.) The family now has four galleries in New Delhi and one in London. “I feel we need 1,000 more art galleries in Delhi,” Vadehra says.

About the same time, she began volunteering for Love & Care, taking on fundraising and publicity duties. The charity offers family counseling and youth programs, and its health centers provide immunizations to children and prenatal care to pregnant women. Its vocational programs train adults in sewing, candle-making, and beautician and other skills, enabling them to increase their income, and its educational centers offer programs to students.

“A lot of these slums have a large migratory population,” says Vadehra. “So a lot of times, when children come into these areas, they are not able to get into public schools immediately. For that gap year, we help them stay up-to-date with classes until they get into the school system when admissions start again. After they get in, they come to us for support and help with homework.” The NGO also helps dropouts get back on track.

And sometimes, the organization simply offers fun. For BU’s inaugural Global Day of Service last April, Vadehra organized a free carnival for underprivileged children enrolled in Love & Care’s academic support program. The kids enjoyed rides, games, and a performance by the band Cyanide.

Vadehra says the work “makes you feel like you’re making a difference in someone’s life. A lot of times, these families would send the children out to beg to make some money. They would be doing manual labor, such as cleaning staff or labor-intensive odd jobs. More than anything else, that’s just the cycle. The parents have been doing it, the grandparents have been doing it, and now the children would be doing it. The point is to break that cycle.”

Cynthia K. Buccini can be reached at cbuccini@bu.edu.

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