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Mona Khaitan Awarded The First Ph.D By Hindu University Of America

Press Release

On Saturday, June 25, 2005 the Hindu University of America located in Orlando, Florida, hosted the third Graduation Commencement.  This particular graduation made history with both Master and Doctoral degrees awarded.  First ever of its kind, the degree of Doctor of Hindu Studies in “Yoga Philosophy & Meditation” was awarded to Mona Khaitan, and the first Masters degree in “Hindu Philosophies” was received by Jadeine Shives.

The ceremony started auspiciously with traditional Hindu prayers recited by faculty members Dr. B.V.V.K. Sastry and Dr. M.K. Sridhar.  Chanting was then offered to the presiding deity of Hindu University shrine, Shree Vishnumaya Durga by the graduates, Mona Khaitan and Jadeine Shives, led by Dr. Sastry, Dr. M.K. Sridhar and Professor S.R. Tiwari.  Braham Aggarwal, Chairman of the Board, Kuldip C. Gupta, President of HU, and Abhinav Dwivedi, Vice-President of HU, presided over the ceremonies.  

 Ms. Jadeine Shives was awarded the first Masters Degree of Hindu Studies in “Hindu Philosophies” by HU.  Master’s degree work at HU involves 30 credits of academic studies in the form of 10 courses or 8 courses and a Master’s Thesis.  Course work includes University Core courses (on Hinduism and Sanskrit), Program Core courses and Elective courses.  Inspired by the depth of studies with HU experienced pursuing her academic course work over the last two and a half years, she joined the staff as Marketing Manager in June of 2004.  Among her many personal accomplishments, Ms. Shives is the Founder and President of the 1008 Wells Foundation, raising public awareness for the need of fresh water wells in India.  Her soon to be released book, Digging a Well to Heaven . . . A Woman’s Odyssey into the Heart of India and the Soul of Herself is one of the ways she is generating funds for multiple drinking water projects.  Hindu University of America holds the honor of full sponsorship of the first well in West Bengal, India.  Though originally raised as a Christian, Ms. Shives shared why she now holds the Vedic teachings as her personal philosophy.  During her address, she affirmed how Sanatana Dharma reminds everyone, “. . . it is not enough to hear that prophets and sages have had incredible experiences of God and live life according to their revelations.  Hinduism encourages us to have our own direct experience of Divinity . . . it is the highest goal of a human birth!”

A very special moment followed when Ms. Mona Khaitan was awarded the first Ph.D. awarded by HU.  Her history making degree in Hindu Studies in “Yoga Philosophy and Meditation” was announced three short days after her Doctoral Thesis presentation on Right Action – Key to Liberation and a Part of All Paths in the Bhagavad Gita.  Doctorate degree work at HU involves 60 credits of academic work, 30 credits in course work and 30 credits of thesis research.  Doctoral thesis evaluation procedure consists of a committee of experts conducting a Qualifying Examination, a Comprehensive Examination, and a final Thesis Examination open to public.  Dr. Khaitan, as she is now proudly addressed, started as an HU student in 2002.   Already a full Professor of Accounting at MassBay Community College in Wesley Hills, Massachusetts, Dr. Khaitan also holds a Masters Degree in Certified Public Accounting from Roosevelt University in Illinois.  She is a very active member in the Hindu community as General Secretary for the Maheshwari Maha Sabha of North America, President of the Merrimac Valley Chapter of VHPA, Advisor to the Indian Club of MassBay Community College, and Treasurer of Troop #186 Boy Scouts of America.  After offering profound thanks to the teachers of the past and present as well as her family, she was awarded not only her degree and plaque, but a loving memento by her family recognizing her great accomplishments with her new title in bold letters, “Dr. Mona!”

Instead of the American custom of cap and gown, the long-time Indian tradition was followed with embroidered ceremonial shawls draped around both graduates while receiving their degrees.  Ms. Shives and Ms. Khaitan then formally pledged to uphold the dignity and integrity of the knowledge acquired and to place it at the disposal of humanity.

Chief Guest Akshay Desai, a physician based in St. Petersburg, is an appointee by Governor Jeb Bush to the Florida Board of Governors setting policy and overseeing the management of ten Florida State universities.  Dr. Desai, the first Indian American to represent the White House Initiative appointed by President George W. Bush to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), works tirelessly to help minorities overcome the “bigotry of low expectations”.  During his commencement address, Dr. Desai called upon the graduates to “. . . contribute to this country’s search for the moral compass as it makes even greater strides in the scientific and material world.”  He honored both students for having “forsaken the easy and beaten path of seeking career-oriented degrees and material-driven disciplines, and chosen instead, education that renders them to a harder but higher avocation.”  Dr. Desai called on the grads to be “role models of future students of this great institution, and an inspiration to generations of Americans, not just Hindu or Indian, but Americans of all faiths and hues.” 

Afterwards the faculty represented by Dr. B.V.V.K. Sastry, Dr. M.K. Sridhar, and Professor S.R. Tiwari provided additional thought provoking addresses and guidance.  Each professor had played a key role in the education of both students over the course of their academic pursuits.

Attendees then had the opportunity to hear next from Dr. Pawan Rattan, a member of the Board of Directors of Hindu University.  He acknowledged that the “awarding of formal degrees in Hindu studies provides for an authenticity of source and authentic scholars who can decipher the complex algorithms of the often misunderstood science of Hinduism.  HU graduates are the new pioneers of progress exemplifying the science and spirituality of Hinduism while influencing and motivating all fields of life from entertainment to law makers.”

Dr. O.P. Dwivedi, an Adjunct Faculty member, offered stirring words of encouragement and wisdom to live by for not only the degree recipients but all that were present that day.

The Graduation Ceremony was also honored by the presence of Dr. Aravind Pillai, Chairman of the Hindu Society of Central Florida.  Taking the time off from the new Casselberry temple’s activities of the past week’s Maha Kumbabhishekan & Prathishtapanam celebrations in Central Florida, Dr. Pillai spoke on the higher teachings from the Vedic traditions of tolerance and acceptance.  He encouraged both graduates to act as a bridge of communication between practicing Hindus and all of society with its many religions and faiths.

In a moment of special recognition, Ms. Snehlata Vibhakar, Student Affairs Administrator, was presented with a plaque thanking her for the many years of tireless and devoted service generously offered to HU.  Ms. Vibhakar has been with the University since 2002 and has played a vital role in the success and growth of HU over the years.  Known to most as Lata, her cheerful smile and sharp skills will be missed when she retires shortly to assist her family in their own career fields.

Finally, the closing prayers requesting the blessings that all beings be happy were joyfully chanted by all as a closing arati was offered to Shree Vishnumaya Durga.  In true Indian fashion, no celebration is complete without a feast.  HU provided a wonderful meal afterwards on the deck of the facilities for the approximately eighty guests present that afternoon.

Everyone, including the guests, was moved by the sacredness and heartfelt ceremony of the day.  When questioned by a friend what the graduation was like, Reverend Victoria Klassen, past Director of Florida Southern College, Charlotte/DeSoto Campus replied, “It was like dying and going to heaven.  For the first time I did not have to listen, go beneath the words and myths being shared, and then understand and experience the spiritual meaning being pointed to.  I felt the spirit disclosed directly through those selected, needed words and the heart.  Everything that was being said was what I had known all my life. . . Your campus pulls at my heart strings.”

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