Concordia professor Viswanath Tata, BEng 81 and MEng 88, is paying forward his parents’ legacy. The two-time alumnus has, along with his family, established the L.K. Rao and Ramasita Tata Award in honour of Tata’s late father, L.K. Rao Tata, and his mother, Ramasita Tata.
“My dad always used to say that, as visible immigrants, we need to work a little bit harder to get the same opportunities as others, and my studies and degrees from Concordia helped give me a great start,” says Tata, who is a sessional lecturer in the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering at the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science.
When Tata’s father passed away in 2019, he willed a portion of his estate help support students in India, so Tata and his siblings created the L.K. Rao Tata and Ramasita Tata Award.
The $50,000 gift supports the Campaign for Concordia and will help women — specifically international students from India — pursuing their Master’s of Engineering at the Gina Cody School. Each student will receive a $5,000 bursary.
A mindset to succeed
“Both of my grandfathers were headmasters — one of an elementary school, the other of a high school — in a small village in southern India, and my father comes from a family of 12 children, the only one who had anything above a high school education,” Tata explains.
“My father was university educated and went on to get a master's degree before he and my mom emigrated to Canada with their children in 1966. He arrived here with literally nothing in his pocket, found a job and encouraged his four children to get an education.”
After graduating as class valedictorian in 1981, Tata went on to hold a series of key positions during an illustrious professional aerospace career, including at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, Bell Helicopter Textron in Texas and Bombardier Aerospace, as well as an executive vice-presidency of Aerospace Concepts LLC (ACL), consulting owners of large-cabin business jets.
Now retired, Tata is pursuing his private pilot’s license after years spent being — per his LinkedIn profile — “passionate about everything aviation.” He remains a part-time aerospace professor and lecturer at the Gina Cody School.
Helping to ‘ease financial pressures’
Tata underscores the importance of his family's award as a tribute to his parents’ values: “My siblings and I have been very successful in our careers thanks to the support of our parents who also instilled in us the core lesson of giving back, of passing it forward. We also all believe in Concordia and the Gina Cody School’s vision of equity, diversity and inclusion.
“You know, engineering is pretty intensive, it’s a very challenging program, and international students pay a lot more in university fees than locals, so the pressures are very high. By establishing the L.K. Rao and Ramasita Tata Award and giving a new $5,000 bursary each year, we feel we can help ease the financial pressures for deserving female students from India.”
While teaching the next generation of aerospace professionals is gratifying, Tata says that he and his family are also thrilled they are honouring their father’s legacy.
“My mom is very happy that we have done this,” Tata says. “We’re looking forward to the first recipient, hopefully this year.”