by Chris Freiberg | July 9, 2014
Former University of West Georgia President Beheruz Sethna, the first Indian-American to lead a U.S. university, has been honored as one of the Carnegie Corp.’s 40 “Great Immigrants” this year.
Dr. Sethna was recognized for a 19-year tenure during which he grew the school’s enrollment by 50 percent and transformed it from a small liberal arts college into a full-fledged university in 1996. He was the longest-serving university president in Georgia upon his retirement last year.
The Carnegie honor puts him in good company: This year’s class of “Great Immigrants: The Pride of America” included Indian-Americans like Microsoft President and CEO Satya Nadella and Carnegie Mellon University President Subra Suresh and other immigrants who have impacted American culture, business and politics, including Ambassador Patrick Gaspard from Iran and Nobel Prize Winner Roger Guillemin from France.
Dr. Sethna, who grew up in Mumbai and immigrated to the states in 1973 at the age of 25 to study at Columbia University, saw it as part of his duty to connect West Georgia with his home country.
“I have always believed that the United States and India are bound by strong philosophical ties of democracy, freedom of the press, entrepreneurship and business, excellence in academics and the like ... so, to me, being a naturalized U.S. citizen is my own one-person affirmation of the ties between these two great democratic nations.”
Over the course of his presidency, he helped establish lasting faculty connections and research partnerships with several Indian colleges. As a result of these connections, UWG was recognized in 2011 as a top producing institution for the Fulbright Program, a U.S.-backed scholarship that promotes global educational exchange.
Last year, the president emeritus received the Cornerstone Award from the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, which honors outstanding professors in select Georgia schools.
He remains at UWG teaching business administration in the Richards College of Business and continues to promote international outreach in education with his recent work teaching science and English at the Indian orphanage school of Balgram, located 20 miles north of Delhi.
"In a global interconnected world, the rise of a middle class in India will surely benefit business and industry in the U.S.,” Dr. Sethna told Global Atlanta in an email. “Correspondingly, a healthy, prosperous, outward-looking and globally aware America will benefit India. I want to be part of that mutual growth."
Northern Ireland-born Samantha Power, who spent her high school years in Atlanta and recently returned to give the commencement address at her alma mater, Lakeside High School, was named a great immigrant in 2011.
Correction: A previous version of this article said that Samantha Power was among this year's honorees.