Rita Thakur, associate dean of the College of Business and Public Management, shared her experience coming from India, working at the University of La Verne, and her hopes for her retirement on Tuesday at the faculty lecture over Zoom.
After 44 years of being at the University, Thakur announced that she will retire upon the spring semester’s conclusion. There were 63 people in attendance for her last lecture including friends, colleagues, and former students, who were able to listen to details of her experience with the University and what she had learned throughout her life.
“When I found ULV, it was like a match made in the right place,” Thakur said. “I was looking for a place I could call home and make a difference.”
Thakur said that she left India to come to the United States in 1971. She moved to Missouri, since that was where she went as a foreign exchange student. She said that it was a sudden change for her since went from actively practicing law in India to getting a job washing dishes in Missouri. Thakur was making $75 a month, then paying $45 for rent. She decided to work every summer to save up for a college tuition to get her master’s degree. Once she completed her master’s, she decided to go for her Ph.D.
One week before Thakur was going to go to the University of Missouri, she was taken to go meet the head of the business department. He told Thakur that she would never get assistantship there because, as a woman and a foreigner, she could not teach American men how to do business.
“The only way we can stand up for what we believe in is that we have to know who we are, we have to know our values, and we need to know what we will fight for,” Thakur said.
Thakur decided to attend the University of Nebraska after that meeting. That was the first time Thakur had decided to stand up for herself, but certainly not the last.
Her first day at ULV was a Wednesday, which just so happened to be the day when meetings were held. At the department meeting, she was the only woman at the table since the secretary wasn’t there. The department chair asked Thakur if she would take the minutes for the meeting. She had to make a decision, whether she was going to be treated like an assistant and bring coffee to the meetings or be treated as an equal.
“I’ll be happy to take notes today, if he takes them next time, then he takes them the next time after that,” she said as she pointed to the men sitting at the table. Finally, she pointed to Bill Mitchell, the department chair, and told him to take the minutes. He did.
Through her time at ULV, Thakur has been a recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award and Johnson Service Award.
Thakur said that the students always come first. She dedicated herself to developing a strong business program that gave students the confidence they needed in order to succeed past graduation.
“We are giving them skills, which will give them experience, which will give them more and more confidence,” Thakur said. “We want students who really value what we want to give and to prepare them not just for their own lives, but for the community that they are a part of.”
She didn’t take credit for her accomplishments, but instead took the time to thank members of the teams she has worked with and the friends who have supported her. The attendees had nothing but love and praise for Thakur.
“It is clear that Rita’s great skill has been to work with a wide variety of personalities and departments. She was an integrationist in that she brought people together and made connections,” said Philip Hofer, ULV administrator emeritus.
Troy Stromme, a ULV alumnus, described Thakur as an amazing educator, teacher, coach, counselor, visionary, wise advisor, leader, inspiration, wonderful person, and a lifetime friend.
“Rita, you welcomed me with the warmest smile,” said Soomi Lee, ULV assistant professor in public administration. “I felt welcomed when I first came to La Verne because of you.You are La Verne to me.”
Thakur said that if it was not for ULV, she would not be who she is today and that she is thankful for the opportunity she received to be who she is.
She said that her dreams for her future are to make as big of a difference as she can, to spend time with her grandkids, and to have a real garden with all kinds of vegetables for her family.
“The thing I want most for the University is for it to become one again and for everyone to have respect for each other,” Thakur said.
Taylor Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taylor Moore is a junior broadcast journalism major and LV Life editor for Spring 2023. In her fourth semester on Campus Times, this is her second time serving as LV Life editor. She has also served as social media editor and staff writer.