Renu Khator, chancellor of the University of Houston System and president of the University of Houston, has received the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, the highest honor conferred on overseas Indians. She is one of 13 recipients of the award, which was given out in New Delhi by Pranab Mukherjee, the president of India.
“I take great pride in being an Indian-American and feel that I have been blessed by the richness of both cultures,” Khator said. “I am particularly proud of my Indian heritage and grateful for the values that I was able to inherit from my motherland. I am truly humbled to receive the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award from the president of India, for it is reflective of my love and affection for both India and the United States of America.”
The award is conferred as a part of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Conventions, organized annually since 2003. It is given to a non-resident Indian, person of Indian origin or an organization or institution established and run by the non-resident Indians or persons of Indian origin, who has made significant contribution in any one of the following fields:
- Better understanding abroad of India
- Support to India’s causes and concerns in a tangible way
- Building closer links between India, the overseas Indian community and their country of residence
- Social and humanitarian causes in India or abroad
- Welfare of the local Indian community
- Philanthropic and charitable work
- Eminence in one’s field or outstanding work, which has enhanced India’s prestige in the country of residence
- Eminence in skills which has enhanced India’s prestige in that country (for non-professional workers)
The theme of the PBD was “Engaging Diaspora: Connecting Across Generation.” Following the awards presentation, Muhkherjee stated that the Indian government on its part will continue to actively engage with the overseas Indian community and explore all possible avenues to make them valued partners in the building of a strong and prosperous India.
Khator took the dual position of chancellor and president at UH in 2008, becoming the system’s first woman chancellor, the University’s first foreign-born president and the first Indian immigrant to head a comprehensive research university in the U.S.
Under Khator’s leadership, UH has experienced record-breaking research funding, enrollment and private support and was given Tier One University status by the Carnegie Foundation.
Khator holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Kanpur and a master's degree and Ph.D. in political science from Purdue University. She is a noted scholar in the field of global environmental policy and has published numerous books and articles on the subject.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has included her among its Outstanding Americans by Choice awardees, recognizing her achievements as a naturalized citizen. She and her husband, Suresh Khator, associate dean in the UH Cullen College of Engineering, were honored with the prestigious Hind Rattan (Jewel of India) award, given to nonresident Indians for making outstanding contributions in their field. Purdue University awarded her its Doctor of Social Sciences degree, honoris causa. She is featured in the American Council on Education's video “The Joys of the Presidency.”
Khator recently joined some of the world’s most respected leaders when she was named to the Indian Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council. She serves on several boards, including the American Council on Education, the Greater Houston Partnership, the Houston Technology Center, the Texas Medical Center Policy Council, the Methodist Hospital Research Institute Board, and the Business Higher Education Forum. She is deputy chair of the Dallas Federal Reserve Board and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.