For R. Richard “Rick” Ramnath AB ’91, coming to Harvard was a family decision. Born in the small island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, Ramnath’s parents moved the family to South Florida when he was 12 years old to ensure that he had access to all the best educational opportunities. Education was so important to his parents, in fact, that Ramnath’s father gave up a career as a physician and a comfortable life to start over in the U.S.
Without a U.S. medical license, Ramnath’s father, Ron, couldn’t work as a physician for some time, the son recalls. “Our lives were actually less comfortable in the U.S. than in Trinidad, but my parents were willing to sacrifice their savings to make sure we went to the best schools.”
The move was hard on Ramnath in other ways, too. “It was a bit of a culture shock,” he says of his experience at an almost all-white prep school. In the 1980s in Florida, he remembers, immigrants were not always met with open arms, and he found himself the recipient of racial taunts and insults.
When the time came to look at colleges, Ramnath found he could have his pick of the best schools and received several scholarship offers. For his family, the top choice was always Harvard. “We all felt that Harvard was the pinnacle of academia,” he says.
Apart from academics, Ramnath was struck by Harvard’s diverse student body. “It seemed like they were so committed even back then to making sure the campus was open to students from all races and backgrounds,” he recalls. “I saw a place where being an immigrant was actually not to be demonized but celebrated.”
“We all felt that Harvard was the pinnacle of academia. ...It seemed like they were so committed to making sure the campus was open to students from all races and backgrounds.”
—Rick Ramnath AB ’91
Now a radiologist living in South Florida, Ramnath wants to make sure that others have the same positive experience at Harvard that he had. He faithfully made a gift to Harvard each year since graduating in 1991, but the passing of his mother, Rita Ramnath, in 2015 caused him to think differently about his giving.
“When you lose a loved one, you start reflecting on the things that were important to that person and to you and the things that you had in common,” he says. That is why, along with his father and his wife, Julee, Ramnath established the Ramnath Family Undergraduate Financial Aid Fund at Harvard. The fund was created through a charitable gift annuity in which both father and son split the contributions and receive income.
For Rick Ramnath, the family fund is his way of honoring the sacrifice his family made decades ago to help him come to Harvard. “The opportunity to combine my ability to give back to Harvard in the way I had always done—to honor my mom’s legacy, to make sure Harvard continues its mission, and also to provide a nice investment opportunity for myself and my dad—made perfect sense, and I was really happy to be able to do that.”
Contact University Planned Giving to learn more about supporting University programs.