As a child growing up in a small town in India, University of New Orleans finance professor Tarun Mukherjee recalled his mother’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for knowledge. She was born in an era when some family members adamantly opposed females seeking education, Mukherjee said.
“She had to learn how to read under the mosquito net with a small, dim lamp after everyone went to bed. Yet, she acquired the knowledge and wisdom that surpassed all of her children combined,” Mukherjee said. “Lack of formal education did not stop her from expanding her horizon; she would read the daily newspaper from the first word to the last, sit by the radio to listen to the world news and debate any subject of importance, including world politics.”
His parents, Kali and Sushila Mukherjee, who are now deceased, instilled the importance of hard work and the value of education in their 10 children in words and deeds, he said.
“My father, a government officer, worked relentlessly to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. We learned the value of honesty and hard work from him,” Mukherjee said.
His mother’s mission was to make sure her children got the best education, he said.
“To achieve this mission, she sacrificed all things material,” Mukherjee said. “She sold all her jewelry, asked her accomplished brothers to extend room and boarding so that we could avail ourselves of the higher education she wanted us to have but was not available in a small town we lived.”
The mantras on the importance of education that his parents instilled in him, including, “One thing that no one can take away from you is education,” has led Mukherjee to donate $50,000 for the creation of a student-managed investment fund that bears their names: The Kali C. and Sushila B. Mukherjee Student-Managed Fund.
Starting in the fall 2021, the University will offer a new three-hour course called Student Managed Investment Fund for undergraduate senior finance majors and students in the finance master’s degree program.
“We do consider this an experiential learning course because they will be managing a real-world portfolio under the directions of a real-world portfolio manager,” said Walter Lane, chair and associate professor of finance and economics. “Dr. Mukherjee gave a donation that now allows us to have some actual money to manage … we’re really excited.”
The Student Fund is a restricted asset of the UNO Foundation and all funds will be held in a brokerage account at Charles Schwab, said Anthony Gregorio, president of the UNO Foundation.
“I am very excited about the program and very thankful for Tarun’s generosity,” Gregorio said. “We certainly hope others join Tarun in support of the student-managed fund.”
While Lane and others praised his generosity, Mukherjee, who has spent nearly four decades as a faculty member at the University of New Orleans, said it was done to acknowledge the sacrifices his parents made to provide a better education for him and to offer UNO students another professional skill.
“Hands-on training gives our students the tool that almost all business, especially finance, students at other institutions have. Being exposed to this experience allows our students to compete on a level playing field,” Mukherjee said.
“My ‘generosity’ is not a selfless act. Indeed, I am selfish in my intent to memorialize my parents, give my students a tool that they need to compete and further the mission of an institution of learning with which I have fallen in love.”