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College Awards Honorary Doctorate to Sunil Puri ’82

Tuesday, June 25, 2013  
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For Immediate Release – 6/19/2013
Contact – Director of Communications, Rita Elliott 815-226-3374

Rockford, Ill. – Rockford College awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters to alumnus, Board of Trustee member and local philanthropist Mr. Sunil Puri, class of 1982, during its Commencement exercises held on Sunday, May 19, 2013. Mr. Puri was honored for his significant dedication and contributions to the college and community.

Born in Bombay, India, in 1960, Puri immigrated to the United States in 1979 to attend Rockford College. After achieving his B.S. in Accounting, he pursued graduate work at Rockford College and the London Business School. Earlier this year, he graduated from the ten-year Program for Management and Leadership of the Harvard Business School.

A member of the Rockford College Board of Trustees since 2005, his invaluable contributions of time, talent and treasure have been instrumental in establishing the sound fiscal and strategic goals that have helped foster the College’s continued growth. A strong voice for the value a liberal arts education affords, Mr. Puri is a tireless proponent, evidenced by his own experiences, of the College’s mission to provide an education grounded in liberal arts learning and complemented and extended by professional and practical experience.

The introduction of Mr. Puri and official citation follow:
Introduction presented by Associate Professor of Business, Accounting and Economics/Political Science, Mr. Robert Evans:

Mr. President, I present to you Mr. Sunil Puri, alumnus from the class of 1982, who since his graduation, has never forgotten, nor taken for granted, the considerable impact his education has made in his life.

Raised in India and coming to Rockford while still in his teens, Mr. Puri arrived with nothing in hand except pure determination and a desire to gain an education. His hard work and business acumen has resulted in a vastly different picture today as Mr. Puri’s business and philanthropic accomplishments are impressive and widely-known. Equally impressive is his continued and fervent support for his alma matter, his community, and his adopted country.

Mr. Puri has distinguished himself as a highly engaged public citizen, meeting regularly with, and providing counsel to, mayors, governors and even presidents. Mr. Puri continues to forge an indelible mark, laboring with his characteristic energy and high expectations, valuing above all the tangible results of improvement for Rockford.

And for all that many of us think we know of Mr. Puri’s countless activities, there is far more done of which we are completely unaware. And that is how he chooses it to be. His generous financial support of Rockford College has ensured it was able to weather the most difficult of times; his leadership on the Board of Trustees has helped to secure the future of this proud institution for generations to come.
It is the next generation of learners that Mr. Puri is perhaps most passionate about, approaching every issue and opportunity from the perspective of enhancing the student experience. This hard driving businessman has opposed both as an alumnus and as a trustee, any proposal that would dilute or endanger the liberal arts tradition and mission of Rockford College.

Citation and conferral of degree presented by Rockford College President Robert L. Head, Ph.D.:

Mr. Puri, you have generously supported Rockford College in words and in deeds. We, along with this community have benefited greatly from your benevolence.

You exemplify the true power of an education grounded in liberal arts and complimented by practical experience; the very core of our mission.
You have distinguished yourself in your profession and in your desire to enact positive change through a model of civic engagement at the highest and most meaningful levels.

You serve as a compelling example of all that is possible in our world; one our graduates of 2013 would do well to emulate.

By the authority granted to me by the Board of Trustees of Rockford College, I herby confer upon you the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, with all of the rights and privileges thereunto pertaining.

Additional biographical information:

In 1984, Mr. Puri founded, and has since continued as president of, First Rockford Group, a diversified real estate development firm. While most of his projects are concentrated in Illinois and Southern Wisconsin, he has developed properties in California, Arizona, Florida and India.

Along with his service to Rockford College, he serves on several boards including the Rockford Area Venues and Events Commission, Operating and Finance Committee of the Rockford Public Schools and Executive Committee of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council. Sunil is especially active with the World Presidents Organization. He also has been a driving force in the Golden Apple Foundation since 2003, a volunteer organization which annually awards outstanding teachers in the Rockford area and recognizes area principals with the Puri Family Outstanding Principal Award. Mr. Puri resides in Rockford with his three children.

Mr. Puri remains involved in Democratic politics, having been a convention delegate for Presidents Clinton and Obama. He has had the privilege of advising both Presidents Clinton and Obama and traveling to India with President Clinton in 2000 and 2001 and President Obama in 2010. Since September 2010, he has served as Commissioner on President Obama’s White House Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

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