Indian students attending Lawrence Technological University gathered the evening of Aug. 3 to honor the memory of former Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and share stories about how he touched their lives.
Kalam served as India’s 11th president from 2002 to 2007, having gained the support of both of India’s major political parties. He died on July 27 at the age of 83.
A career scientist and engineer, Kalam was a leader in India’s civilian space program and military missile development program. He played a key role in India’s successful development of nuclear weapons in 1998.
Kalam’s many achievements were noted at the LTU ceremony, but the emphasis was on his devotion to science and education and how he touched the students’ lives as they were growing up. He provided a role model for those interested in pursuing careers in science and technology. One student said Kalam provided inspiration for him to keep pursuing such a career even after he had failed a science course.
On the humorous side, another student told of the time he tried to skip school in order to celebrate Science Day in Switzerland, which had been established in honor of Kalam. His mother made him go to school that day, but Kalam’s example continued to be a positive force in his life.
LTU President Virinder Moudgil arranged for Kalam to visit Michigan in 2009. He was at the airport to greet Dr. Kalam when he arrived and was immediately impressed by his humility and simplicity.
Kalam wanted to know how Indian students were doing in the United States and chose to ride with students on the way from the airport to his hotel. He also took great joy in eating a simple meal of dishes from the Madras region where he grew up.
As a scientist and educator himself, Moudgil greatly appreciated the tremendous emphasis that Kalam put into education. “He was concerned about the future of his country,” Moudgil recalled. “He cared deeply about the development of the next generation of students. In honoring his memory we really honor the potential in each one of us.”