Centennial Campaign

Paying It Forward

Venture capitalist challenges Reed students to lend a hand to their classmates.

By Randall S. Barton
Venky Ganesan ”96 and family

Venky Ganesan ’96 could never have afforded to come to Reed without the scholarship that brought him from India to America.

Now managing director of Globespan Partners in Palo Alto, Venky hasn’t forgotten that act of kindness. Together with his wife, Dr. Preetha Basaviah, he provided matching funds for a student initiative, Reedies for Reedies, in which students raised money for a scholarship for an incoming freshman. He matched all gifts of $15 or more up to $3,000 and agreed to contribute another $2,000 if more than 250 students chipped into the scholarship.

Too often people defer the lives they’d like to lead, he says, and get bogged down in tedium. “Young people are often the same way about charity. They say, ‘I’m not ready to support the things I believe in now. I’ll do it later.’ I’ve learned the power of doing it now. Reedies for Reedies is a great way for students to think about supporting the college now, as opposed to deferring it to some time in the future.”

Thanks to generous donors, roughly 52 percent of Reed students now receive financial aid, with the average package being $34,000 per year.

“Someone before you decided to pay it forward so that you could have a higher education,” Venky says. “If you believe Reed is a special place where people can live the life of the mind, then we all should support it, to make it possible for some person, who may not even be born yet, to come here. It’s a dividend we are giving to the rest of the world and to our future generations.”

Venky has vivid memories of arriving at Reed his freshman year at age 17. “For the first time in my life I was in a place that shared my intellectual interests. Here was a place where intellect and ideas are valued and people spend time discussing them.”

He studied mathematics and economics for three years at Reed before going to Caltech to study computer science for two years. “The juxtaposition of a fairly progressive student body and faculty with a fairly conservative curriculum lends itself to a rigor of thought and process, and is what makes the place special,” he says. “Reed students comprise a rainbow that offers a vast spectrum. One cannot truly be open to new ideas without considering all viewpoints.”

His experience at Reed has been crucial to his work at Globespan. “People come in with a dream and our job is to help make those dreams a reality,” he says. “I find people who are idealistic, who believe they have come up with some innovation that will make the world a better place. Yes, they want to make money. But most importantly, they want to make meaning. They believe that by making meaning, they make money. I join them on that journey.”

Venky and Preetha are frequently called upon to raise money for institutions they are involved with, including the India Community Center and their children’s school.

“You find your life gets dramatically richer when you get involved in giving,” he explains. “Service to something else is the best way to drive meaning and purpose into your life, and it’s a good motivator. I do my job as a venture capitalist better because I know why I do it. I do it so that I can give.