Carnegie Mellon University president Subra Suresh joined an elite club this week.
He is one of 41 naturalized citizens the Carnegie Corporation of New York is honoring as “Great Immigrants — the Pride of America.” The charitable foundation has put together its list of high-achieving immigrants since 2006 and will feature photos and information on the recipients in today’s edition of The New York Times.
Mr. Suresh, who was head of the National Science Foundation before coming to CMU, is one of four people on this year’s list who were born in India. The others are Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft Corp.; Aasif Mandvi, an actor and comedian known for his work on “The Daily Show”; and Beheruz Sethna, former president of the University of West Georgia.
Pittsburgher and Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie established the Carnegie Corporation in 1911 to promote “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.”
Mr. Suresh, who became CMU’s latest president last year, said Wednesday that when he heard of his selection to the Carnegie immigrants list, “I was certainly surprised and a little bit humbled.”
“I think one of the most remarkable things about the U.S. is that there are very few countries where you can come as a graduate student, can become a citizen, and you get the opportunity for the president to nominate you to lead a major U.S. agency in Washington. That doesn’t happen in very many places.”
Mr. Suresh came to the United States in 1977 as a master’s student in mechanical engineering at Iowa State University and got his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology four years later.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1989, when he was a professor at Brown University. “By the time I applied for my citizenship, I was married, and my wife was American, and I was a full professor at Brown, and we had one child. It was pretty clear I was here for the long haul.”
Now heading a university with a high percentage of foreign-born students, Mr. Suresh said the role of newcomers to America’s shores is “nothing new for the U.S. It’s always been a country of immigrants. One of the reasons it has been an innovation leader is the fact you could attract talent from all over the world to come here, and any country that is capable of doing that is always at the top of the innovation pyramid.”
Other “great immigrants” honored this year include author Andre Aciman from Egypt and Italy, fashion designer Carolina Herrera from Venezuela, former U.S. Sen. Rudolph Boschwitz from Germany, actors Daniel Dae Kim from South Korea (“Lost”) and Sara Ramirez from Mexico (“Grey’s Anatomy”), musician Dave Matthews from South Africa and Nobel Prize in medicine recipient Roger Guillemin from France.
Mark Roth: email@example.com or 412-263-1130. Twitter: @markomar.