An Indo-Canadian man has been named Ottawa’s Outstanding Individual Philanthropist.
The community builder Cuckoo Kochar, president, CEO and founder of DCR/Phoenix Group of Companies got this honor recently.
“I don’t think you have to be a rich person to be a philanthropist. That’s not what I think philanthropy is about,” says community builder Cuckoo Kochar, president, CEO and founder of DCR/Phoenix Group of Companies about his getting this honor.
“I think it’s about sharing your good fortune. If God has given you the good fortune of having a good life, having good things, having good food on the table, I think it’s incumbent on all of us to be able to share it with our brothers and our sisters, and our community. That is something that I was taught since I was born,” he was quoted saying.
Mr. Kochar is being recognized for his lifetime of charitable giving at the 23rd annual AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) Philanthropy Awards Gala, taking place Nov. 14 at the Shaw Centre. He has been named 2017 Outstanding Individual Philanthropist. He and his fellow award recipients were selected by an independent panel of judges.
The prestigious award recognizes Mr. Kochar’s extensive contributions, including the donation of $1.2 million to create the Kochar Family Scholarships at Carleton University, in honour of his mother and grandmother.
Mr. Kochar established the scholarships in 2013 – the same year that Phoenix Homes celebrated its 25th anniversary – because of Carleton’s reputation as a centre of engineering excellence.
The fund brings over exemplary students from India who, without financial help, are unable to pursue their dreams of an education. At Carleton, they can earn themselves graduate degrees in the fields of civil engineering, architecture or urban planning.
“It’s been very gratifying for me,” said Mr. Kochar, who makes a point of getting to know the scholarship recipients and of hosting them for dinner during Diwali, an annual Hindu festival.
Jennifer Conley, chief advancement officer at Carleton University, describes Mr. Kochar’s contributions as “extraordinary.”
“He wants to promote education as one of the greatest assets human beings can have to raise themselves above the ordinary and also contribute to the growth of society,” she says.
“What we’re also thrilled about is that, with Cuckoo’s support, it helps with the internationalization and globalization of education. It’s important for our students to have this incredible diversity, because the students from India are bringing different perspectives and different ideas and different cultures that make us a richer place.”
From New Delhi, India he came to Canada in the ‘70s to pursue his Master of Engineering. The Kochar family places high value on education, which is why Mr. Kochar believes he’d never have got to where he is today without his master’s degree.
“People have to educate themselves, not just because they can earn a better living but because they can live a better life,” Mr. Kochar explained.
His mother married in India at age 17 without completing her schooling, as would have been typical in her day. She believed strongly, however, that all people should have access to education. “She felt this especially for women, because she felt it would empower them to become independent and self-supporting,” said Mr. Kochar, whose four sisters became professionals. His daughter is a lawyer. His son has his MBA.
Mr. Kochar grew up with a physician father who frequently assisted people free of charge. His mother also helped out those who were less fortunate. She passed away at age 66, the same age that Mr. Kochar is now.
Over the years, DCR/Phoenix and the Kochar family have donated to several organizations, including Bruyère, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the YMCA.
The dinner typically draws more than 350 people from the professional fundraising sector, along with the business sponsors, the nominators, and the award recipients, with their supportive network of friends, family and peers