Indian American business leader, Grammy-nominated artist, and humanitarian Chandrika K. Tandon was named a 2019 Horatio Alger Award winner Dec. 11 by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization honoring the achievements of outstanding individuals and encouraging youth to pursue their dreams through higher education.
For more than 70 years, the Horatio Alger Award has been annually awarded to those who have “succeeded despite adversity, and who have remained committed to higher education and charitable endeavors throughout their lives.”
Tandon, chair and founder of Tandon Capital Associates, Soul Chants Music, and the Krishnamurthy Tandon Foundation, joins 12 other exceptional business, civic and cultural leaders from across North America in receiving the honors.
In 1973, Tandon, the daughter of a traditional family in Chennai, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in commerce from Madras Christian College, and earned an MBA from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. Immediately thereafter, she began her career for Citibank, starting in war-torn Beirut.
At 24, she immigrated to the U.S. to work for McKinsey and Company, becoming the first Indian woman hired, and all without an American education. “With a dogged determination to create impact for businesses and clients, coupled with a fearsome work ethic, she made partner at the firm within a few years,” according to the educational organization, which notes that in 1990, she risked her life savings to found Tandon Capital Associates, a financial advisory company, restructuring preeminent financial institutions worldwide, and creating billions of dollars of market cap. This decision quickly catapulted her to a new echelon.
After realizing that the happiest moments of her childhood were tied to music, Tandon decided to pursue singing. She later went on to release four albums, winning a Grammy nomination for her 2011 album, “Soul Call.”
“Chandrika is a visionary who took control of her future at a young age,” said Matthew Rose, president of Horatio Alger Association and a 2013 Horatio Alger Award recipient. “Despite barriers, she never lost sight of her goals, and fought for the life she wanted and deserved. We are delighted to welcome Chandrika as a lifetime member, and I look forward to sharing her story of triumph and accomplishment with our scholars.”
As one of the largest Indian American donors to American higher education, Tandon and her husband have given $100 million to the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering, renamed the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. She serves as the vice chair of the NYU board of trustees and sits on the boards of the NYU Langone Health System, the NYU Stern School of Business and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
“I spent my life working hard to create impact for businesses and society,” said Tandon. “But I know I would not be where I am today without the teachers and supporters I’ve had – especially my grandfather. My love for music has been an important outlet for me in finding myself, and for that, I am forever grateful. I hope I can help to advocate for our young Horatio Alger Scholars as they fight for their professional and personal passions, just as I did.”
Tandon and the Member Class of 2019 will be formally inducted into the Association on April 4-6, 2019, during the association’s 72nd Horatio Alger Award induction ceremonies in Washington, D.C.