Rajen Kilachand, a Dubai-based global entrepreneur, has pledged $25 million to support the Honors College, whose full name will become the Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Honors College in honor of his parents. Kilachand (GSM’74) is a member of the University’s Board of Trustees.
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.
Boston University President Robert A. Brown says Kilachand is a person of extraordinary foresight and rare generosity. “I am deeply grateful to Rajen Kilachand for his vision and his commitment to our Honors College, which serves our highest achieving students,” says Brown. “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. Equally as important as his gift, which is the largest in the history of the University, is his insightful understanding of the enduring importance of undergraduate education, both to him and to the University.”
“Young men and women in this country need to go out in the world with open minds and no preconceived notions. They have to go out into the world and build.”
~ Rajen Kilachand
Kilachand’s connection with Boston University predates his arrival to begin an MBA program 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 famous New England industrialists who built the textile mills of Lawrence, Mass., and, coincidentally, the Gothic Revival mansion now known as Sloane House—the home of Brown and his wife, Beverly Brown. That connection was still intact when Kilachand came to the University in 1971. Kilachand says John Lawrence, a descendant of his family’s 19th-century business partner, helped him find his way.
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.
“My late great-grandfather and his sons have been great philanthropists in India,” says 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?”
Kilachand says he worries that in this age of professional specialization, academic interest in the humanities is waning. “People don’t want to go into liberal arts,” he says. “I think for people to be future leaders, you need a focused approach to humanities, the fine arts, so that you have a well-rounded personality. And then the concept came, and I said, ‘Okay, I’m ready to do my little bit.’”
Charles Dellheim, director of the Honors College and a College of Arts & Sciences professor of history, says Kilachand’s appreciation of the college’s mission makes him the perfect donor. “Rajen is a humane and entrepreneurial man who is interested in the welfare of students and the education of students,” Dellheim says. “He is someone who knows the importance of taking risks, both in business and in the university environment. He is also someone with an unusually clear understanding of the way the world is shaping up. He once said that when he started in business, he had no idea that he would have to be a bit of an engineer and a bit of an anthropologist and a bit of a political scientist and a bit of a psychologist, but that is what he had to be. And here at the Honors College, what we do is try to prepare students for the very complex world they will be entering by exposing them to the same diverse branches of knowledge.”
Kilachand says he 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 says. “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.”