The Director and I visited the United States during May 23-31, with stop-overs at 4 cities. We were attempting to accomplish specific objectives on 3 fronts—alumni relations, University collaborations, and fund-raising.
At our first stop in Chicago, the main Event was the “Golden Reunion” of the 64 & 65 batches, ably orchestrated by Mallik Putcha & team. The nostalgia was palpable; at the same time, these senior alumni were very keen on identifying an initiative of social relevance. Vikram Rao has prepared a concept note on “Consumers Adapting to Power Shortages”, and this will serve as a springboard for related collaborations between alumni and IITM. Also in Chicago, a local Chapter meeting was held, and nearly 80 alumni attended, many with family. Clearly, there is a strong alumni community network present in the Midwest, and it needs to be nurtured.
From Chicago, we flew down to Houston, where we first met with collaborators from 3 local Universities—Texas A & M, Rice and Houston. Compared to a similar meting two years ago, progress is clearly evident in building interactions up to a critical mass. While faculty collaborations and research scholar exchanges have been progressing, the time appears to be ripe for taking relations to the next level—joint supervision of M.S. and Ph.D. students. This key step will advance relations to a higher, more committed plateau. Rahul Mehta of the Mehta Family Foundation, a huge benefactor of IIT Madras, hosted tea for us at his lovely home in Houston, followed by a local Chapter dinner attended by PanIIT alumni as well. On the way back to our Hotel, our gracious host, Subba Viswanathan, the Director and I got caught in a flash flood, and spent the night at the lobby of another Hotel, waiting for the torrential downpour to cease and the water level to drop. That eventually happened at 4 am!
On Tuesday, we flew to Pittsburgh, and were hosted for dinner at the home of our Distinguished Alum, Dr. Subra Suresh (President, CMU). Another DA, Sunil Wadhwani, joined for dinner as well. As you can imagine, the quality of the food was matched only by that of the conversation. Earlier, we also met with my batchmate & Dean of Heinz College at CMU, Ramayya Krishnan, for additional discussions. On Wednesday morning, we visited CMU for further interactions, followed by a luncheon for local alumni hosted by Prof. Ravi at CMU. Bob Nathan, erstwhile President of IITMAANA, came all the way from Washington, DC to attend the lunch, and launch the Pittsburgh Alumni Chapter. Lalit Chordia, the Director’s ’80 batchmate, took us to his supercritical CO2 process-development facility, and gave an impressive tour. We took the night flight to SFO.
The Bay Area leg was as intense as ever. Starting with a 7:30 ambreakfast meeting with IITM alumni at Google, we were escorted by our ’68 alum, Seshan Rammohan, to several other meetings during the day, and next. Seshan’s energy and enthusiasm for all matters pertaining to IITM is amazing to behold. We held discussions during the day with Stanford faculty on aspects related to “entrepreneurship”, and headed out to a dinner reception where Venky Harinarayanan was conferred with the “Distinguished Alumnus” award (first-time ever outside the campus). This was sandwiched between a tete-a-tete with the Director moderated by his classmate, Vijay Ullal, and the launch of the U.S. “Development Office” & Foundation, which will henceforth assist IITM in the crucial matter of fund-raising in North America.
The last day of our Bay Area visit was punctuated by several one-on-one meetings with alumni, interspersed with a visit to the Berkeley campus. The day concluded with a Bay Area Chapter meeting, which featured a lively panel discussion on various topics of relevance to the alma mater.
It was a memorable, and typically hectic trip. The devil’s in the details, of course, and there’s a whole lot of follow-up to do.