Ratan Tata is one of India’s most prominent businessmen and philanthropists. A member of a prominent Indian family, he started out on the shop floor of Tata Steel, shoveling limestone and tending to a blast furnace. He eventually became the head of the Tata Group, India's largest and most powerful conglomerate.
During his wildly successful tenure, Tata Group's revenues grew manifold (over $100 billion now) as it successfully acquired international brands such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Corus, and Tetley. Beyond all expectations, Tata has carried forward his family's legacy of blending successful business practices with philanthropy, including giving India the world's cheapest car.
Given his roots in old money, there was never any doubt that Tata would receive an elite education. In 1955 he enrolled in Cornell University. Though he initially started studying engineering, as per his father's wishes, two years later, he took up architecture, completing both courses in under seven years in 1962.
He was a top student, respected by his professors and fellow Cornellians, and eventually served as the President of the Honorary Society in Architecture. On top of that, decades before Tata would be knighted by the British Royal Family, he was a frat guy, a member of Cornell's Alpha Sigma Phi chapter.
From Cornell's perspective, it was quite fortunate that Tata valued his time as an undergraduate. Because Tata would officially become the university’s most generous international donor. In 2008 Tata gifted $50 million to Cornell. The purpose of the endowment is twofold. The money allows for the establishment of scholarships for international students and supports agricultural and nutritional projects conducted by Cornell in India.
In addition, Tata remains an active member of the Cornell community. Over the years he's served on the Cornell University Board of Trustees, personally advising the school's administration in matters of international involvement, particularly regarding projects connected to India. More broadly, Tata has served on the board's Academic Affairs, Student Life, and Development Committees. In 2012 he was named Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year.
Considering Tata's reputation as being one of the most respected business leaders in the world, it is not a surprise that he has continued to strengthen the relationship between him and his alma mater. With philanthropy seemingly ingrained in his DNA, Tata continues to be one of Cornell's most eminent alumni.