Grad student Vikram Kumar recently repaid MIT for a great education by making a gift of $1,008. The 24-year-old medical student in the Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology program recently won the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, a scholarship worth $70,000. The windfall pushed open his heart, he says.
“When I won, I had the biggest heart in the world. I felt like, oh, my God, I’m so lucky.”
Immediately he emailed MIT President Charles Vest. “I’ve benefited from learning from the greatest minds in science,” he wrote. “To thank MIT and have her share in my honor, I’d like to give $1,008 of my stipend money.”
Kumar also gave the same amount to the other schools he attended: Harvard, Columbia, the Indian Institute of Technology, and his high school in New Delhi. “I feel so blessed. I never would have gotten the money if it weren’t for these schools.”
He chose the number 1,008, he says, because it has mystical meaning for him. According to Hindu scriptures, we breathe 10,800,000 times per year, and one-hundred thousandth of the time should be devoted to thoughts of God. Kumar also buys and invests stocks in units of 108. “So far, it has worked great.
“Even though $1,008 isn’t a lot of money,” he says, “I felt very good about myself. For a minute, while I was writing the check, I felt like I was giving away $300 million.”
It is not the first time Kumar has made a financial gift. At age seven, he went to camp with $25 to buy candy. At the end of the summer he had not spent a cent, so he donated the cash back to the camp.
“It’s important to be generous,” he says. “You don’t lose anything by giving, and I think it comes back. How it comes, and what route it comes, God only knows, but it definitely does come back.”