If our life is a result of our core beliefs, then Dr. Manu Vora’s core belief is in the exponential power of giving.
Vora was recently awarded the 2015 Ishikawa Medal by the American Society for Quality (ASQ) for his extraordinary commitment to teams in corporate, academic, professional, and philanthropic domains. ASQ is the world’s largest network of quality resources and experts. An Adjunct professor for 22 years, he has taught management subjects at business schools around the world. Locally, he is a professor at Calumet College of St. Joseph where he taught Quality Management, Operations Management, and Change Management.
His first name, Manu, has the connotation of Christianity’s “Adam” in Indian tradition: the first man.
Born in India, both of his parents were deceased by the time he was 6 years old. He was living with extended family when during a holiday celebration an accident with fireworks left him blind. Fortunately, with the help of a physician his eyesight returned, but the incident made an impact on young Vora.
“I was in total darkness. I had no hope. I had no parents and I was blind. I didn't know what was going to happen to me,” Vora said. “Before my eyesight returned I had time to contemplate what my life would be like, and it was bleak.”
Determined to contribute and not to be a burden to his family, he went on to become an outstanding student.
“I focused very much on education. I was very good in school and always got the scholarships because I worked hard.”
Vora credits his teachers for challenging him and giving him confidence.
“Teachers are the ones who can open the mind. If someone teaches in a way that you can understand, then your mind is opened and you want to explore more. I feel so fortunate I had a good math teacher. He made it interesting and not boring. I had great teachers in science and they made it so exciting so we would take an interest. My teacher had great expectations and pushed me to solve difficult problems.”
After high school and 2 years of Science College, he was accepted into an exclusive, highly subsidized chemical engineering program that was offered to only the best students in India. At the time, there was a great need in India for chemical engineers as the industry expanded.
“I owe it to my country to give back. They have given me so much in my formative years that it is my duty to give back.”
He went on to get his M.S., Ph.D. and MBA, and worked for Fortune 500 companies; advising and educating executives from all over the world. Last year he spearheaded a new initiative to assist engineering students from top schools. Dr. Vora explained that while engineering students are brilliant with their technical skills, many times they lack the soft skills that help them day-to-day in the workplace. To address this disparity, he began teaching through video calls about various soft skills including communication, leadership, and quality management discipline. These video calls are presented live to students globally and are recorded as YouTube videos that can be accessed later. When he presents one of these courses, a thousand or more people could be watching in real time.
“The way I put it is this,” said Vora. “I’ve learned so much from so many other people, that whatever I’ve learned, I add to it my practical experience and give it back. That way it can be multiplied and more people can benefit.”
Dr. Vora’s passion for teaching and for quality management, along with his compassion for the blind led him to establish the Blind Foundation for India in 1989, of which he is Founding Director and President. One in three blind people in the world are from India. Many times children go blind between the ages of 4 to 6 simply because they do not have enough vitamin A in their diet. The foundation raises money to provide Vitamin A supplements and eyesight screenings for children, along with cataracts surgery for adults. To date the organization has raised over $4 million.
“I have been given so much by God, I want to give back,” said Dr. Manu Vora. “$1 worth of Vitamin A supplement to give sight to children can bring a return of $100,000 of lifetime earnings. That shows you the power of giving. The return is exponential.”
For more information or to donate to the Blind Foundation for India, visit http://www.blindfoundation.org. Vora resides in Naperville, Illinois and enjoys traveling, mentoring, and photography.