Indian-American chancellor of Penn State Harrisburg retires

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Mukund Kulkarni, who retired as Chancellor of Penn State Harrisburg June 30. He served at the University for 33 years, the last 8 as Chancellor. (Photo:psu.edu)

The Indian-American chancellor of Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg, Mukund Kulkarni, who retired June 30, after leading the university for 8 years and serving as a professor there for 33 years, says his life has been a series of happy coincidences.

In an interview posted on the University’s website, Kulkarni calls himself a “very lucky guy” since childhood. And he is proving to be lucky for Penn State Harrisburg as well, evident from the endowments and benefits being bestowed on the institution to honor his leadership.

According to a press release June 29, the portion of the University endowment that benefits Penn State Harrisburg will grow by more than $3 million thanks to recent gifts honoring Chancellor Kulkarni.

Kulkarni joined the University in 1985 as a member of the business faculty at Penn State Harrisburg, and advanced in the faculty ranks and leadership posts at the college prior to becoming chancellor in 2010. “Under his leadership, Penn State Harrisburg experienced growth in enrollment and academic offerings, the development of new and enhanced academic and student life facilities, the expansion of teaching and learning support to faculty, and the enhancement of instructional technology,” the press release says.

Indian-Americans of Central Pennsylvania are among those who have supported Penn State Harrisburg in recognition of Kulkarni, the release says, apart from a generous leadership gift from John and Abby Tierney, longtime supporters of Penn State and Penn State Harrisburg; and Omid Ansary, senior associate dean for academic affairs at Penn State Harrisburg; as well as the collective gifts of many others.

The gifts support the naming of the Mukund S. Kulkarni Theatre in the college’s Student Enrichment Center; the Mukund S. Kulkarni Cultural Series Program Fund, which will bring annual cultural programs and performances to the theatre; and scholarships through Penn State’s Open Doors Scholarship Matching Program, the press release said.

“Facilities for arts and culture have been a dream of mine for years. This facility fills this major gap that existed on the campus and I am honored that it will bear my name,” Kulkarni is quoted saying in the press release, adding, “I am truly humbled by the generosity of many donors and the consideration given by the University.”

The endowment of more than $1 million in cultural program funding will provide Penn State Harrisburg the opportunity to bring national and international performances to campus annually, allowing the community to experience a variety of different performances and events intended to showcase the college’s diversity, the university said. It credited Kulkarni with not only increasing the student enrollment but also bringing a record number of international students, and for attracting high-caliber students and a highly credentialed faculty an dedicated staff.

“Dr. Kulkarni is passionate about education, knowing that it is critical to an individual’s ability to provide for their family. But those who are close to him also know that he believes education means more,” Marissa Hoover, director of the college’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations, is quoted saying. “To Dr. Kulkarni, education is important because it provides an understanding and awareness of the value of diversity in our society. It’s not only about people who look different, but also about people who think differently and have different experiences. The series is an accessible way to be exposed to other cultures. Awareness and understanding of the experiences and beliefs of others allow us to be compassionate and make informed decisions to help everyone we encounter,” Hoover added.

In addition to the program fund, several Open Doors Scholarships were created to honor Kulkarni, adding an additional $2 million to the portion of the University endowment available for Penn State Harrisburg students. The Open Doors Scholarship Matching Program is a 2:1 permanent match for endowed gifts to specific programs that will help students with financial need study at Penn State.

“From supporting the arts at Penn State Harrisburg to opening doors to students with financial need, these generous gifts from John and Abby Tierney, Dr. Omid Ansary, and other alumni and friends are a truly fitting way to celebrate Chancellor Kulkarni’s accomplished career and dedication to Penn State Harrisburg,” said O. Richard Bundy III, Penn State’s vice president for development and alumni relations. “It is gifts like these that will enable us to build ‘A Greater Penn State.’”

The gifts at Penn State Harrisburg will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university.

Kulkarni had announced his retirement a year ago, and told Penn State News he and his wife Prabha, wanted to spend time with their two grandchildren, and also because he believed he should leave when he is on top. The couple will now have time to travel around the world he indicated, and ” I plan to read and write; I haven’t been able to do that. While in college, I published three short fiction stories. Whether I still have that talent, I am doubtful. It will probably be nonfiction, but I may dabble in fiction as well,” Kulkarni said.

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