High School Graduates Awarded Over $100,000 at Annual Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Lecture/Awards


Thirty-eight high school graduates and community college students, irrespective of national origin, were recognized with scholarships exceeding $100,000 at the 35th annual Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Lecture and Awards ceremony organized recently in San Diego, Calif.

The program, organized by the San Diego Indian American Society, was held in Atkinson Hall of the University of California, San Diego, and was attended by over 250 people.

In addition to the monetary prizes, the scholars will also receive U.S. congressional certificates.

This is one of the longest held events in the U.S. to memorialize Gandhi’s contribution to humankind, according to a press release.

The San Diego Indian American Society, founded by Indian American Dr. M.C. ‘Madhu’ Madhavan, has come a long way since 1984 when late Dr. Jonas Salk delivered the inaugural lecture and ten outstanding high school graduates were honored with the scholarship amount of about $6,000.

Today, the society said in the release, people of Indian origin in San Diego are more committed to encouraging young scholars to evaluate principles of non-violence in today’s context and to provide support for higher education to those from families with no college education.

Nearly 95 percent of the scholarship amount goes to non-Indian origin students and almost 80 percent goes to students from low-income families.

The Mahatma Gandhi Scholars now total about 650 to date, having received in excess of $700,000 in awards. Madhavan thanked 35 families for their support this year.

“For a small immigrant community, it is a good effort but there is more to do…” said Madhavan. “We need your continuous support to maintain this year’s level of support and to increase the trust fund from $750,000 to at least one million.”

The 35th annual Mahatma Gandhi memorial lecture was delivered by globally recognized physicist and executive vice chancellor of University of California, San Diego, Elizabeth Simmons. She exhorted the students to “try to identify overarching principles as Gandhi did: power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment.”

“As a university student, do seek equilibrium but avoid pathological kinds. Don’t isolate yourself within narrow band of ideas, interests, people and spaces. Also, don’t seek to impose the views you arrived at college with on others,” said Simmons. “Remember what Gandhiji said: ‘nobody in this world possesses absolute truth.’ If you let others’ perspective in, yours will likely change for the better.”

“One best way you can contribute to global peace is by lowering your defenses and listening to others, actively inviting others into the conversation, especially those whose voices are less listened to and making space for their concerns to be heard and addressed,” she added.

Ashna Sood of Del Norte High School and Dan Grushkevich of La Jolla High School read their inspiring essays on non-violence during the event.

Ramesh Rao, chair of the Mahatma Gandhi scholarship committee; Hema Lall, co-chair of the Gandhi Avid scholarship committee; and Madhavan presented the honorees from 18 different high schools and four different community colleges in San Diego County. These students will be attending Yale, U.C. Berkley, UCLA, and UCSD, among others.

Three of the recipients are Indian Americans: Karishma Shah, Ashna Sood and Tavisha Thapar.

Following a photo session, a reception was hosted by Zubin Kolah of Bombay Coast.

A special dinner in honor of Simmons followed the awards ceremony, attended by notable community members.