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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

Boston University alumnus donates $25m to the institute

Philanthropist has donated more than $50 million to charities in the last five years.
Rajen Kilachand, the chairman of the Dodsal Group, at his office in Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National
Rajen Kilachand, the chairman of the Dodsal Group, at his office in Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // A Dubai resident who donated almost Dh100 million to a US university hopes his endowment will encourage more students to pursue the liberal arts.

Rajen Kilachand's US$25m (Dh91.8m) donation to Boston University last month was the biggest pledge received by the school, and will go to sponsoring an honours college with credit courses.

"I came to the conclusion that instead of doing little things in several places, it was time to make one big impact towards education," said Mr Kilachand, the chairman of the multinational Dodsal Group and a member of Boston University's board of trustees.

For him, the university where he learnt "confidence and how to face life" was a natural choice.

Mr Kilachand, who completed his MBA at Boston University in 1973, said it was not his first but certainly his biggest donation promoting education.

"From my point of view it's a gift not to BU but to education, because I am a big believer in these causes," he said.

"As a family, we are involved in several education and healthcare causes worldwide."

When he was growing up in India, Mr Kilachand said, dinner was never a silent affair.

While sitting with parents, uncles, aunts and cousins in Mumbai, conversation and debate about current affairs, music and civilisation was as important as the food served.

Those evenings instilled in him a broad-minded passion for liberal arts that has grown stronger over the years.

"After the Second World War students began specialising very early on after school in either law, engineering or medicine and, in the process, arts and humanities has taken a back seat," Mr Kilachand said.

"You cannot have a well-rounded personality if you are not exposed to that. One can end up being brilliant in their profession but they should be capable of discussing things like the origins of the Galawti kebabs of Lucknow, famous paintings by Picasso or Hussain, or the history of the Middle East as well."

The donation will help 400 students take courses such as bioethics, astronomy, literature and climate change at the Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Honours College, named after Mr Kilachand's parents.

Robert Brown, the president of Boston University, said the money would be used to offer enriching courses without increasing fees.

"Many of our very brightest and most ambitious undergraduate students receive the majority of their liberal arts education in an atmosphere that is tied to research, discovery and exposure to interdisciplinary approaches," Mr Brown said.

Mr Kilachand has made similarly generous donations to Dubai causes after moving there nine years ago.

In the past five years alone, he has donated more than $50m to causes supporting health, vocational training and education. He said philanthropy had always been part of his family business, which was started in 1948 in Mumbai.

"I have spent my life living in different parts of the world but now Dubai is my home," said Mr Kilachand, who recalled how his passport was once stamped with a Trucial States visa for his first visit in 1968.

"One of my biggest contributions was to Dubai Cares, where I think I was the first foreigner to donate Dh7m within 48 hours of it being launched four years ago."

He also set up the Kilachand Theatre at Ductac in Mall of the Emirates, has teamed with the Dubai Police for awareness campaigns, and this year sent two terminally ill children to Mecca to perform Umrah.

In health care, he supports NGOs in Africa and India that fight HIV/Aids and promote family planning.

"Most of my support is towards arts and culture because that is where my interest lies, and it is what we need to see in future leaders," Mr Kilachand said.

"I know what I want to do when I come back in my next life: I am going to be an astronaut, musician, architect, interior decorator and a chef - all rolled in one."

 

aahmed@thenational.ae