University of L'Aquila honors Banerjee in recognition of Rotarian-led rebuilding effort
Top: RI President Kalyan Banerjee receives an honorary doctorate in engineering from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of L'Aquila, Italy, on 12 October. Photo courtesy Margarita Hewko
Bottom: Banerjee, with his wife, Binota, receives a check for €50,000 (US$69,300) from the Italian blood donation agency AVIS during the ceremony. Photo by Maria Chiara Zilli
RI President Kalyan Banerjee received an honorary doctorate in engineering from the University of L'Aquila, Italy, on 12 October, in recognition of Rotarians’ help in rebuilding the engineering campus after the devastating earthquake of 2009.
Rotarians in District 2090 (Albania; part of Italy) have joined with the Italian blood donation agency AVIS to raise almost €2 million (US$2,772,000) so far to rebuild a wing of the school.
"This honor is from our university, but also from the entire city of L'Aquila," said Roberto Volpe, vice chancellor, who presented the degree along with Pier Ugo Foscolo, dean of the Faculty of Engineering. "From initiatives such as [Rotary's] we will acquire the hope -- actually the certainty -- that we will have a future of full economic, civil, and cultural recovery."
During the ceremony, AVIS presented Banerjee with a €50,000 (US$69,300) check to further support the rebuilding effort. Rotarians and AVIS have pledged to raise €3 million (US$4,159,000) total to completely rebuild and reopen the campus.
"The honorary degree I am accepting today is really an honor that is directed not toward me, but toward the organization I represent, Rotary International," Banerjee noted. "One of the things that Rotary has been very involved with has been the rebuilding of the [Faculty of] Engineering here at the university. And I think you’ve seen for yourselves how Rotary has inspired this community, and brought so many together to make this dream a reality."
Solving humanitarian problems
The University of L'Aquila also awarded the doctorate in recognition of Banerjee's work to elevate and affirm the role of engineering in solving humanitarian problems. University officials cited his contributions "in a rapidly evolving society, such as India."
Banerjee shared some of his background with the audience of university and civic leaders and Rotarians. He explained how, after earning his degree in chemical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, he decided to join a relative in a venture that led to the formation of United Phosphorus Limited, now the largest agrochemical manufacturer in India.
"I've never regretted going to work for a small company instead of a multinational, and now I can see that bypassing graduate school was the right choice as well. I'm getting my doctorate in the end -- even if it did take me 45 years," he quipped.
Banerjee joined the Rotary Club of Vapi, Gujarat, shortly after the launch of United Phosphorus. The club helped transform Vapi from a town with no substantial infrastructure to a city with medical facilities, schools, and colleges.
"Ultimately, the transformation of the city of Vapi came about because of one simple and, I hope, obvious idea: that we all share responsibility for the well-being of our communities and, ultimately, our world," he said. "It’s the idea that all of us, as individuals and collectively, are fundamentally responsible for seeing that our world gets, not worse every day, but better."
Francesco Ottaviano, governor of District 2090, noted the importance of the ceremony to local Rotarians, the town, and the university: "This recognition will be news that will go all around the Rotary world and to more than 200 countries."
For more information:
Banerjee and his wife, Binota, arrived at the University hours after an audience with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. See our gallery of news photos for more.