The Premanand Legacy

Cover Story

Dr. Jayaseetha Premanand and the late Dr. Visvanatha Premanand

Dr. Jayaseetha Premanand and the late Dr. Visvanatha Premanand are leaving a lasting legacy at Normandale Community College that provides for future generations to follow in their footsteps. Both distinguished in several fields, their legacy is built from several types of gifts that, as a whole, benefit future Normandale students and lovers of music.

Education was always a passion in both Jaya's and Prem's lives. Prem achieved his master's degree in Physics from the University of Madras in India and his doctorate degree in Physics from the University of Paris-Sorbonne in France. Throughout his time in Minnesota, Prem held positions at the University of Minnesota in the Materials Science Department, Dahlberg Inc. (manufacturers of hearing aids), Control Data, and Emerson Technology before retiring from Resistance Technology.

“We came to Minnesota in 1967,” said Jaya. “We had relatives who lived in upstate New York, but Prem was offered an opportunity with the University of Minnesota so we decided to move here. Even though we grew up in India, we really considered Minnesota our home.”

Jaya's resume boasts an undergraduate degree from the University of Mysore in India, a master's degree in Theoretical Physics from the University of British Columbia in Canada, a doctorate degree in Theoretical Physics from Brandeis University in Massachusetts, and a graduate degree in Gemology from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

In 1968, Normandale's inaugural year, Jaya accepted a position teaching mathematics at the college. Even after Jaya retired from Normandale in 1993, she volunteered her time tutoring students in math. In addition, Jaya and Prem loved to attend Normandale functions including choir concerts, theatre performances, and Foundation events.

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It's not what you get, but what you give

In 1973, Jaya and Prem made a significant gift to the Normandale Community College Foundation. In recognition of this gift, a conference room was named in their honor. Overlooking the Japanese Garden, the Premanand Room provides a wonderful space for students and staff to meet on campus.

In honor of Jaya's time spent teaching at Normandale, the Premanands also established a scholarship at Normandale in 1993. The Dr. Jayaseetha Premanand Scholarship is awarded on an annual basis to a math student who has achieved a 3.0 GPA.

The scholarship program that the college and the Normandale Foundation have built over time has continued to grow with the generosity of people like the Premanands. The Foundation is awarding more than $245,000 to Normandale students in scholarship dollars for the 2013-2014 academic year.

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A love for music

Marc Jaros Tanpura Demonstration

Indian Music Society of Minnesota

One of Prem's biggest passions was music. Along with his co-visionaries, Dr. Padmakar Dixit and Dr. Prakash Keshaviah, he co-founded the Indian Music Society of Minnesota (IMSOM) in 1980.

“Even with all the demands of his job, Prem always found time to play music. He was very talented,” said Jaya.

IMSOM is the premier Indian arts and cultural organization in Minnesota. Its mission is to bring the best Indian classical music to the Twin Cities, and at the same time foster a greater understanding between people of different cultures. In September 2013, IMSOM will be celebrating 33 years of excellence.

After Prem passed away in December 2011, Jaya wanted to make sure his legacy lived on through Normandale. She made a gift to the Normandale Foundation for the theatre to be named the Dr. V. Premanand Theatre and Concert Hall.

Jaya noted that “Prem was a wonderful person who was well respected in the community and by making this gift, he will never be forgotten.”

Her generous contribution has created a trickle-down effect of other positive gifts. One of those gifts is that the Dr. V. Premanand Theatre and Concert Hall is the new home for IMSOM concerts.

“It is a testament to the solid foundation laid by Dr. Premanand and his cohorts that the society is still thriving, presenting and promoting the best in Indian classical music in the Twin Cities and across Minnesota,” said Pavan Allalaghatta, ex-president of IMSOM and current advisor to the Board. “IMSOM is very grateful to Dr. Premanand and his family for their foundational work and their continued support throughout the years. We are joyous beyond words that the continued generosity of the Premanand family has now created a permanent space for most of IMSOM's future concerts at the Premanand Theatre. It is IMSOM's sincere hope that future generations will benefit tremendously from the quality and diversity of programming in Indian classical music that we bring to the Twin Cities.”

The first IMSOM concert of the 2013 season was held on June 9, 2013. The Theatre department has also benefitted by being able to establish a scholarship for a Theatre student as well as support for their latest trip to the Kennedy Center festival.

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A collection of gifts

A Man and a Woman

Not only did Prem and Jaya establish a scholarship and name spaces at Normandale, they have also given the college many of their treasures. The Premanands had collected many valuable and unique pieces of art, paintings and musical instruments over the years. They have gifted Normandale with more than 40 pieces of artwork and collectibles to be displayed and used for educational purposes at the college.

One of those pieces is a rosewood carving that was owned by Jaya's great grandfather and is more than 150 years old.  Molly Skjei is the Art Department's Gallery director at Normandale who has been managing the reception of these valuable artifacts.

“The Premanands have donated so many beautiful and interesting art works to the Normandale Permanent Collection,” said Skjei. “All of their donated works benefit our students, faculty and staff. We are particularly indebted to them for the donation of the artwork from their native country of India. These paintings and sculptures allow our students to gain a personal connection to the artistic creations of other cultures and religions. This access is truly invaluable.”

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A spirit of generosity

Trevor Barrett, Dr. J. Premanand Scholarship Recipient

The Premanands are an inspiring example of community members supporting education and the arts. Jaya's dedication to the college and her generous gifts help to create brighter futures for Normandale students and faculty. The college and the Normandale Foundation are proud and honored by this longstanding relationship and look forward to establishing and recognizing many more of these strong partnerships.

« Trevor Barrett, one of the recipients of the Dr. J. Premanand Scholarship, holds the dedication plaque for the Dr. V. Premanand Theatre and Concert Hall.

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