Ranjan Sutaria ’67 met her future husband on the day she arrived at Syracuse University to study audiology and speech pathology in the School of Education . Sanjay Khandwala ’65 had just completed a degree in chemical engineering through the College of Engineering , as it was known at the time, but returned to campus to attend the wedding of a friend at Hendricks Chapel. Their meeting that day was a life-changing bit of serendipity. “I had already graduated and was about to start my first job at General Electric,” Sanjay recalls. “And now we have been married for 54 years.”
Both Ranjan and Sanjay were international students from India who had completed bachelor’s degrees in their home country, so they were able to finish their Syracuse University degrees in just two years. Those experiences a half-century ago are among their fondest memories. “I followed Floyd Little on the football field and Dave Bing on the basketball court,” Sanjay says. “They were my favorite athletes, and Dr. Robert Jelinek was my favorite professor and advisor.”
His wife’s Syracuse University memories revolve around special places on campus. “I loved the library, where I worked in the arts section,” she says. “I attended classes at the Hoople Hearing and Speech Center and loved spending time on the Quad when weather permitted.” The only drawback was the snow. “In those days, Indian women primarily wore saris around campus,” she points out, noting that it was difficult to stay warm while navigating snow drifts. “I’ll never forget the blizzard of 1966, when the snowbanks were 10 feet high.”
But Central New York snowstorms couldn’t stop the warm feelings they developed for their alma mater. “Syracuse University was a fabulous community,” Sanjay recalls. “The lively and safe campus environment provided for the well-rounded development of a student’s personality. Many decades later, we remain in contact with some of the Indian students who were our contemporaries.”
Even though the 1960s were a tumultuous time on college campuses across the U.S., Sanjay says the leaders of that period—John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr.—had a profound effect on them. “We were mesmerized by the Kennedy brothers and the Camelot era,” he says. “I clearly remember attending Robert Kennedy’s visit to Central New York during his presidential campaign.”
The Khandwalas returned to Bombay, India (now Mumbai) together in September 1968, and Ranjan began working with patients requiring speech therapy. Sanjay worked for a number of different employers for 15 years before deciding to start a company of his own—a high-tech electronics company that serves as a distributor for American and European manufacturers of high-reliance electronic components for the territory of India. “Since Ranjan and I met at Syracuse and this was the start of our lives together, we decided that our new company should bear that name,” Sanjay says. “We called it Syratron.”
Syratron—with headquarters in Bangalore and offices in Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad—employs 70 people, and a subsidiary in Singapore also bears the Syratron name. The couple’s son Andy, who studied and worked in the U.S. for 10 years, now runs the company. “Andy is the second generation to run the company, and Ranjan and I remain on the board to provide guidance and support,” says Sanjay.
A New Orange Chapter
A new generation may now have the opportunity to follow in the couple’s Orange footsteps. Jay Khandwala, their grandson, has his sights set on Syracuse as a college destination after attending an event for prospective students in Bangalore last year. The 10th grader was so impressed with the presentation given by Brendan Bond, Syracuse University’s assistant director of international admissions, that he enrolled in a 2020 Syracuse University Summer College sport analytics program for high school students.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions forced the programs to switch to an online delivery for Summer 2020 and 2021, dashing his hopes of spending three weeks on campus. “Jay was super excited about Syracuse University and plans to visit campus with his father sometime in 2021 before he begins 12th grade,” Sanjay says. “The fact that the University has so many international students and such wide diversity among the student population is a plus, and the name recognition helps graduating students land jobs in the U.S. and internationally. Jay hopes to study business and economics, and he will certainly apply to Syracuse.”
Sanjay hopes his grandson will get to experience the same welcoming community and sense of empowerment that he and his wife found as students here. “Syracuse instilled in us a great deal of self-confidence, world exposure and ambition to make something of our lives,” he says. “It is a second home to us.”