When Dr. Sanjay Rai, senior vice president for academic affairs, was in high school in India, he had to take a competitive, high-stakes math exam. The school was overcrowded—Dr. Rai took the exam in a hallway—and had no electricity. The temperature outside was 118 degrees.
“You have to learn from adversity,” said Dr. Rai, the recipient of the 2017 outstanding leadership award from Leadership Montgomery. “You’ll never have all the right conditions, all the support, all the funding, all the resources. You have to make it right.”
Giuseppe Mastroeli, secretary for Leadership Montgomery, presented the award to Dr. Rai in a ceremony this past June.
“Dr. Rai is a staunch supporter of innovations that advance college students’ success in academic, career, technical, and workforce development programs,” said Mastroeli. “He spearheaded efforts that transformed boundaries and eliminated barriers for the 60,000 students that attend Montgomery College.”
Eliminating barriers has been a lifelong mission for Dr. Rai, who says his own story is a kind of miracle. His mother never attended school; his father worked at a steel plant and food was sometimes scarce. He knew his education would be the path to a different life.
When he left India to earn a master’s degree in Canada, he arrived in Montreal with just $50 in his pocket. To make matters worse, he was supposed to be 700 miles away—in Halifax. He says these kind of experiences, along with living in three different countries have helped him not only to solve problems but to think at a “global level.”