June 17, 2022
Fifty-two years ago, Praveen Varshney’s father Hari accepted a $1,000 scholarship, which allowed him to move from India to study at UBC, bringing his young family with him. That award not only changed the course of his life, it enabled generations of the Varshney family to follow in Hari’s footsteps and attend UBC.
Today, demonstrating their belief in UBC’s potential to shape the business world of the future, Praveen (BCom 1987) and his wife, Anuja, are paying it forward to the school that shaped their family’s story.
“It’s funny how life works—it’s filled with all these doors that open and close, and some you don’t even go through,” says Praveen. “When Dad left India in 1967 to do his MBA, he applied to three different universities, and UBC was the only one that gave him that scholarship—so my mother, brother Peeyush and I followed him here when I was five.”
Ever since Hari began studying at UBC, the Varshney family’s connection to the university has continued to grow. In 2006, Hari donated $1 million to establish the Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre at UBC Sauder. Today the Varshney name is deeply linked with the world-class UBC Sauder School of Business and support for its students. Several family members are alumni or current UBC students.
Praveen and Anuja’s current philanthropic project gives back to the place so prominent in their family’s lives—the UBC Sauder School of Business. They will contribute to funding the Powerhouse Project, a state-of-the-art building designed to nurture responsible leadership, entrepreneurial thinking and interdisciplinary learning.
In recognition of Praveen and Anuja’s generosity, one floor of the new building, as part of the Technology Entrepreneurship Centre, will be named in their honour. The floor will be a hub of activity for students, faculty, alumni, and industry partners to bring their innovations to life, creating positive social impact through business and ingenuity.
“Having this space that’s going to be cross faculty, cross campus focused—where students can collaborate, get inspired and work together—is really interesting,” says Praveen. “I often use this African proverb: ‘alone, you can go fast, but together we can go far.’”
As an accomplished entrepreneur, Praveen has travelled a long way from his beginnings at UBC. In another case of life’s doors shutting and opening, he changed his major after repeating first-year physics in summer school.
“It was a reality check in my first year at UBC—I actually thought I was going to be an electrical engineer,” laughs Praveen. “While growing up, you often think of all sorts of professions—but also, in the back of your mind, there’s whatever your parents did as a career. Dad was an accountant, and he’d done okay. I later found business was my calling—because it was more about people.”
Praveen became a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) like his father. Later he would meet his future wife, Anuja, also a CPA. Now their daughter and son are at UBC Sauder, continuing their family’s connection with UBC.
For Praveen and Anuja, supporting the Powerhouse Project is the perfect fit for their philanthropic goals.
“Our philosophy of giving has always been about giving for social good,” says Anuja. “We always want to make sure that where we give, it’s doing good to the world. When you have a space that is focused on that kind of work of collaborating between all different faculties and all different types of people, only good things can come from that because good thoughts and different ideas and different ways of thinking can only make the world better.”