We meet Atul Punj P ‘12 for a brisk and lively breakfast. Mr. Punj is one of India’s leading industrialists, the chairman of the global construction firm PunjLloyd, and the father of Shiv Punj, member of the Brandeis class of 2012. Punj has strong opinions about Indian politics, the upbringing of children, and education, and the conversation is rapid and vigorous. One of his valued projects is the establishment of a new branch of the Indian School of Business in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh, where apparently ground will be broken in the next year. Punj believes that traditional universities have not done enough to prepare young people for the complex management skills they need to work on major construction and infrastructure projects; as a result, PunjLloyd has set up its own training academies to provide those skills to its workers.
But liberal arts education matters a great deal to him as well, as a thinker who likes to push the boundaries of conventional thought and ideas. He admires in Brandeis the nimbleness, the creativity, and the practicality that he considers strengths of his own company. As such, though his experience at Brandeis extends back only a year, he has already become one of the University’s most active ambassadors in India, calling attention to the virtues of a Brandeis education to parents and educators in his circle.
At our breakfast, Atul Punj makes a commitment to a significant commitment to South Asian Studies at Brandeis, subject to approval of his company’s board later in 2010. Tonight he will host a dinner at his home in President Reinharz’s honor.