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Yale and India

Historical Ties

Yale University’s historical ties to India extend back to its namesake, Elihu Yale, who lived and worked in India for nearly three decades with the British East India Company from 1670 to 1699. Yale administered Fort St. George in Madras (present-day Chennai, capital of the state of Tamil Nadu) as its governor between 1687 and 1692. In 1718, Yale donated to the Collegiate School of Connecticut three bales of goods, 417 books, a portrait of King George I and a set of royal arms. Madras cotton, silk and other textiles from India were among the bales of donated goods. Their sale raised 562 English pounds for the construction of the University’s first building. In gratitude for their benefactor’s generosity, the Collegiate School’s administrators changed the institution’s name to Yale College.

Yale was the first academic institution to teach Sanskrit in the Western Hemisphere. Sanskrit has been taught continuously at Yale since the late 1840s when Professor Edward E. Salisbury introduced Sanskrit to the University curriculum. In 1854, he endowed a permanent professorial chair in Sanskrit, which was filled in the same year by his student, William Dwight Whitney. The Edward E. Salisbury Professorship of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology is the second oldest endowed Sanskrit chair in the United States. Although Harvard’s Wales Professorship of Sanskrit was the first endowed chair of Sanskrit in the United States, its first occupant, Charles R. Lanman, did not fill the position until 1880. Lanman was a Yale alumnus and student of Whitney’s.

It was Yale’s history of training students for missionary activities that brought the earliest known graduate of Yale from India. Sumantro Vishnu Karmarkar from Ahmednagar graduated in 1892 with a bachelor’s degree in divinity and returned to India where he worked as a Christian missionary in what is now Maharashtra state in the western region of the country. Since Karmarkar, the number of prominent Indians to graduate from Yale has grown exponentially to include such luminaries as: Rakesh Mohan ‘71, Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India; Indra Nooyi SOM ‘80, Chairman of the Board and CEO, PepsiCo; Ramesh Ramanathan SOM ‘91, Founder, Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy; T.N. Srinivasan Ph.D. ‘62, Samuel C. Park, Jr. Professor of Economics, Yale University; and Fareed Zakaria ’86, Editor, Newsweek International.

Yale Presidential Trip to India

To underscore Yale’s longstanding ties and active engagement in India, President Richard C. Levin visited India January 2-8, 2005 in the first official visit by a Yale President to the country. Levin led a delegation of Yale faculty and administrators to four cities: New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai.

“It was an important moment for our visit to India,” said Levin. “India is rapidly emerging as a global economic and political power, and our students and faculty are increasingly interested in working and studying in the region. We wanted a clearer sense of the opportunities that are here for Yale to engage with Indian institutions.”

Apart from exploring possibilities for future academic initiatives and institutional partnerships, the trip also was intended to re–connect the University with Yale alumni and parents in India and to advance the University’s standing among important audiences in business, education and government. During three days in New Delhi, President Levin and the delegation held meetings with Prime Minister Dr. Singh, then President Dr. Abdul Kalam, United States Ambassador to India David Mulford, members of the Indian parliament and Ministry of Education, and other senior officials of the Indian central government. President Levin expressed the University’s desire to strengthen its existing relationships with India and to build new ones as the University expands its international presence. Indian officials noted that while many American educational institutions have taken an interest in India, Yale was one of only a handful of institutions that possessed the resources and infrastructure to provide Indian students with need–blind admissions and generous financial aid for undergraduate and graduate study.

Official meetings were only part of the delegation’s visit to India. President Levin joined Vice Chancellor G.K. Chadha of Jawaharlal Nehru University to inaugurate the Fox International Fellowships at JNU and to deliver an address on “The Global University” to the faculty and students of JNU. Vice President Lorimer led members of the delegation on a tour of the IBM Research Center and the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.

Yale’s billion–dollar commitment to science, medicine and technology, and its strengths in engineering and the bio–medical sciences, were the focus of the delegation’s visit to Bangalore. President Levin and members of the delegation visited the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Information Technology—Bangalore to explore prospective areas of collaboration with IIS and IIIT–B faculty and students. The delegation also visited two of the companies—Infosys and Wipro Technologies—that have been central to India’s boom in information technology over the past decade. Narayana Murthy, Chairman and Chief Mentor of Infosys, gave the delegation a personal tour of Infosys’ headquarters in Bangalore; at Wipro, Azim Premji, Chairman and Managing Director, hosted a luncheon to introduce President Levin and the delegation to the academic and business communities in Bangalore.

In Chennai, the delegation attended a ceremony laying the foundation stone for the new Yale-Great Lakes Institute of Management (GLIM) Center for Management Research. The GLIM Center for Management Research is a collaborative effort between Yale and the Great Lakes Institute of Management to establish a world-class school of management in Chennai that promotes, facilitates and advances India-centric management solutions by drawing on Indian-born faculty at U.S. schools of management.

The presidential trip concluded in Mumbai where the Reserve Bank of India hosted President Levin and gave him an opportunity to meet many of the leading industrialists in India such as Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Limited, India’s largest private sector company. On the final day of the delegation’s visit, an op–ed titled “Learning from the Yale Example” written by S. Sadagoppan, the Director of IIIT Bangalore, appeared in the Financial Express newspaper. Sadagoppan concluded, “If we can transform even one [Indian] institution into a Yale–like university, we can declare that we have ‘profited’ from the visit by the Yale University president.”