A digital special section of | Subscribe

Sunil Kumar

Sunil Kumar

President | Tufts University | Class of 1996

Professor Panganamala Kumar was much more than a trusted Ph.D. adviser to ’90s electrical engineering grad student Sunil Kumar.

“Not only did he mentor me in research and teaching, he even lent me money for the deposit on my first apartment,” says Kumar, who arrived in C-U by way of the Indian Institute of Science, where he’d earned a master’s in engineering.

“I had just $700 with me when I landed in the U.S. from India.

“My most vivid memory of Champaign-Urbana was my second winter there. I had a job that required me to stay over the winter break. I will never forget the day my land lady turned down the heat in my apartment, assuming I had left town for the break. I have never feared winter since then.”

After 14 years as a Stanford professor, followed by stints as a dean at the University of Chicago and provost as Johns Hopkins, Kumar was named the 14th president of Tufts University in November 2022.

He’s the first person of color to hold the top spot at the prestigious Boston university.