Indian Americans at West Virginia University

By Mohindar S. Seehra email:
Professor Emeritus, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

Great universities are built on visionary leaderships, adequate resources, and dedicated high-quality faculty, which in turn, attract bright students. West Virginia University (WVU), a comprehensive land-grant university in Morgantown with about 30,000 students, reached the coveted Research Level-1 status in 2015 based on diversity in its doctoral programs, quality of research publications, and level of research expenditures. Last year, WVU received $195 million in research grants and contracts, and awarded 190 PhDs.

Indian Americans are only few among the faculty at WVU, but their contribution to this achievement is significant through their leadership and research work. When I started as an Assistant Professor in Physics in 1969, the other Indian faculty I met were Atam Arya (Physics); Joginder Nath and Rabinder Singh (Agri. Sciences); Satya Rochlani (Pathology); Hota Ganga Rao and Sunder Advani (Engg.); and Ranjit Majumder (Psychology).

Among later additions were Harakh Dedhia (Pulmonology); Abnash Jain (Cardiology); Ramana Reddy (Computer Sci.); Jag Jagannathan (Biochemical Pathology); Rumy Hilloowala (Anatomy); Ashok Abbott (Finance); Rakesh Gupta and Dady Dadyburjor (Chem. Engg.); Rashpal Ahluwalia (Industrial Engg); and Radhey Sharma and Nithi Sivaneri (Civil Engg.).

While all excelled in teaching and research, Drs. Jain, Dadyburjor, Gupta and Sharma also had multi-year stints as department chairs. More Indian Americans joined in recent years particularly in engineering and medicine, notably, Vinay Badhwar as Chair of the Heart & Vascular Institute; and Srinivas Palanki as Chair of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. Rakesh Gupta, Hota GangaRao, Debangsu Bhattacharyya, Brijes Mishra, and Vinay Badhwar are now named the Distinguished Professors. I became Professor in 1977, Eberly Distinguished Professor in 1992 and retired in 2016 after 47 years of service.

The highest honor at WVU is induction into the Order of Vandalia “for Distinguished Service to the University,” given to a few select retirees, distinguished alumni, and benefactors. Since 1961, 150 individuals have received this honor, among them US Senators Robert C. Byrd in 1992 and John D. Rockefeller IV in 2009. Prof. Joginder Nath received this honor in 2016. Receiving this honor in 2019 was a fulfilling moment for me after years of struggle and hard work in my earlier years in India and after coming to the US in 1963. END


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