Ideas and Strategies from the Office of Gift Planning at Princeton University
For Annapurna and Trikur Ramanarayanan, respect for education reaches across generations.
The Ramanarayanans both came from families of modest means who strove to ensure higher education’s promise for them. They, in turn, passed this on to their son, Ganesh Ramanarayanan ’02, and have reached beyond to a future generation of students in establishing a scholarship at Princeton. Their scholarship has helped four students so far.
The couple, who joined the University’s 1746 Society by creating a charitable trust with funds that will eventually go to further support the scholarship, said they hold the belief: “We should never forget our roots, how we were raised, and that money is meant to be shared.”
Trikur, who goes by the nickname “Ram,” is a senior scholar in the Department of Chemistry. A metallurgist who retired from ExxonMobil’s New Jersey research lab after a long career, he now continues research in association with Princeton faculty. Annapurna, who often uses “Anna” as a nickname, retired from a career as an obstetrician and gynecologist and is rediscovering her enthusiasm for vocal music in the Indian classical tradition.
Their individual journeys brought them from their childhood cities in the state of Kerala on India’s southern tip, to Mumbai where they met, and then to the United States.
Ram and his four siblings were encouraged to pursue higher education by their father, a college professor. “It was difficult for him because his salary was not sufficiently high, but he instilled in all of us — and my mother did, too — how precious education is,” he said. “That is what motivated me later. We wanted to support a student who doesn’t have the total means, to make sure that does not stand in the way of a good education.”
Anna also comes from a family of five children whose parents helped them with advanced studies. Her accountant father held similar values to Ram’s. Her mother, whose further studies were curtailed by family responsibilities and later poor health, mentored Anna through her appetite for reading and with her varied interests. “She was an exceptionally bright student in school,” Anna said of her mother. “Watching her, I felt I should do more… There are many kids in the world who can become doctors or scientists or engineers, but they may not have the means to do it. They should be given opportunities if they need help.”
Both Ramanarayanans were busy with their careers when Ganesh enrolled at Princeton. But from their parental perch, they said they were more than pleased with his undergraduate journey.
At the time, Ram was still with ExxonMobil and had collaborated on projects at the University. Many intellectual discussions between father and son charted the possibilities of Ganesh’s direction, Ram said: “He started taking courses in all kinds of different fields: in music, foreign languages, computer science… At Princeton you didn’t need to be married to a major from day one.”
Ganesh majored in electrical engineering and, after a Princeton-supported stay in Japan to polish his language skills, graduated with a language and culture certificate from the Department of East Asian Studies. He also earned a certificate in applications of computing.
Now the Ramanarayanans, who also support efforts on education, health and alleviating poverty in their native India as well as globally, are making that path of discovery possible for other Princeton students.
“We are from humble beginnings. We value education and the need to help others,” Anna said.
“You have to give back. Otherwise, what’s the point?”