An alumni of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) who reached dizzying heights in academia is Sathish Tripathi, the 15th president of University of Buffalo (UB), who assumed charge on April 18, 2011. He also happens to be the first international-born president of UB. He graduated in 1968 with a bachelor of science in physics, maths and statistics and earned a master of science from BHU in 1970. His academic innings abroad began with a master’s in statistics from University of Alberta, Canada. Subsequently, he made his way to University of Toronto, Canada, where he earned a third master’s as well as a doctorate in computer science. Transitioning from provost to president at UB, Tripathi has seen some exciting times. “I have had the opportunity to be at the forefront and play a formative role here. From the ideas and discoveries being made by our world-class faculty and students to the remarkable growth we’ve experienced in our physical campuses — we’ve completed six major construction projects across our three campuses in a year-and-a-half; we are developing into a world-class institution. As president, my job is to ensure that our faculty and students have the environment, opportunities, and support to reach a level of academic excellence,” says the 62-year-old.
Having worked with many Indian higher education institutions as an advisor for years, Tripathi’s efforts led to the signing of an MoU in 2005 with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to establish the Indo-US Inter-University Collaborative Initiative in Higher Education and Research, which has led to a significant partnership between UB and Amrita University, Kerala. While Tripathi has undoubtedly received quality education abroad, he thinks no less of his alma mater, BHU. “In addition to world-class faculty, many of the best and brightest students in India find a home at BHU, which has produced many top leaders in the academy, business and industry today. Engaging with some of these great and creative thinkers opened up new horizons for me. That experience — the opportunity to exchange new ideas and discoveries with other intellectually curious, energised and bright students — really shaped my academic interests and professional path,” he waxes eloquence.
Crediting Indian and other Asian immigrants for giving America a lot to cheer about, Tripathi does acknowledges that while some had to bear the nasty underbelly of racism, he was lucky to have evaded the demon so far. Racism or no racism, there is no dearth of opportunities in America, he advocates. “Higher education is one sphere of opportunity, but Indian-Americans are just as significant a presence in many professional areas like medicine. And consider the many prominent executive positions held by Indian-Americans in the industry as well, including CEOs of many top concerns like PepsiCo, Citibank, and MasterCard,” he explains.
An avid sports fan, Tripathi tries to attend as many as sporting events as possible at UB. You can also catch him walking around the campus taking in the inspiring energy it offers. Indian classical sitar composer Ravi Shankar is a favourite for him. Tripathi resides in New York with his wife and two sons.