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Tata Scholars before Commencement procession

Tata Scholars, from left, Aadeetya Shreedhar, Ashwathi Iver, Pratima Satish and Sauhard Bindal before the Commencement procession May 26. Photo: Jason Koski/University Photography.

Members of Tata Scholars' inaugural class graduate

At this year's commencement ceremony, three of the four Cornell students who entered with the inaugural class of Tata Scholars graduated with undergraduate degrees. (The fourth, Pratima Satish, needs one more semester to complete her dual degree in chemistry and materials science and engineering, but she walked in the procession with the others.)

Tata Scholar Pratima Satish

Tata Scholar Pratima Satish during Commencement 2013. Photo: Jason Koski/University Photography.

The Tata Scholarship was established in October 2008 with one of the largest ever gifts to an American university from a foreign benefactor: $50 million to fund two $25 million endowments: the Tata-Cornell Initiative in Agriculture and Nutrition and the Tata Scholarship for Students from India.

The gift came from the Tata Education and Development Trust, which is led by Cornell trustee Ratan Tata '59, BArch '62. The Trust is a philanthropic entity of the family conglomerate, Tata Sons Inc., which Ratan Tata chaired until 2012.

Five years ago, all four students -- Satish, Aadeetya Shreedhar, Ashwathi Iyer and Sauhard Bindal -- applied to Cornell even though the university normally does not offer financial aid to undergraduate students from India or other foreign countries, due to limited funds.

"I actually did not apply to Cornell," remembers Shreedhar. "Cornell wasn't on my initial list, because when I did research I just looked at schools that offer financial aid."

But a newspaper story about the Tata gift caught his mother's eye.

Ratan Tata and David Skorton

Ratan Tata '59, B.Arch. '62, and President David Skorton in 2008 after signing their historic agreement to provide an endowment of $50 million to Cornell for agriculture and nutrition programs in India and for the education of students from India at Cornell. Photo: University Photography file photo.

"And she figured that, hey, maybe there's a scholarship in there! Might as well throw in one more application," says Shreedhar. "At that point the Tata Scholarship [information] wasn't even on Cornell's website. And then we got the acceptance letter, and we were overjoyed."

This summer, Shreedhar will intern at Cavium Networks and then return to Cornell in the fall to pursue a Master of Engineering degree in electrical and computer engineering.

Iyer, on the other hand, plans to take a gap year to work at home in India "for a company that makes solar-powered devices for villages and slums in India."

Bindal will join Amazon in Seattle as a software developer engineer, creating social games for Facebook and mobile platforms like Kindle, iOS and Android phones.

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Tata Scholarship

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