Jay Jhaveri graduated in 1987 from Notre Dame's accelerated master of business administration (MBA) program. He spent just one year at Notre Dame getting that business degree, which has served him well along two career paths, one in banking and one as an entrepreneur. But just as significantly, it welcomed him to a global alumni network that has added value and meaning to his life both personally and professionally.
Jhaveri is originally from India but has studied and lived all over the world. He is a leader in the Notre Dame alumni community and has been heavily involved in regional alumni clubs for the last 33 years. He is a past president of the Notre Dame Club of Singapore. The club regularly organizes alumni events and supports Notre Dame's recruiting activities in Asia. He connects with fellow alumni in the most surprising places and has been shown time and time again that the "Notre Dame family" you hear so much about is very real.
One of the more surprising of such connections occurred in 1993 when Jhaveri embarked on a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission for one year. In Cambodia he assisted with, among other initiatives, the efforts to host a free and fair election. The mission, known as the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), followed the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, which marked the official end of the Cambodian-Vietnamese War. It was also the first time the UN had taken over the administration of an independent state.
Jhaveri worked in banking before his stint with the UN, but heard of the opportunity to assist in Cambodia through a friend and decided to sign up. While there, one of his responsibilities was counting votes at polling stations during the election.
"People were coming from all over the world to help with the elections," says Jhaveri.
He explains that he happened to share a car one day with a former United States diplomat and the diplomat was amazed when Jhaveri mentioned his Notre Dame background. The diplomat told Jhaveri that, of all people, Digger Phelps, the beloved retired Notre Dame basketball coach, was in Cambodia for the elections.
"I said, 'Tell Digger there is a Notre Dame alum counting votes at this polling station,'" laughs Jhaveri.
A lifelong friendship was born. Phelps and Jhaveri met in Cambodia and have kept in touch ever since. Jhaveri visits with the former coach on trips back to South Bend and Phelps even mentions his Cambodia experience in his book Undertaker's Son: Life Lessons from a Coach (2007).
After his mission with the UN, Jhaveri went back to banking. He spent the next 10 years working at banks in India, London, and finally Singapore, where he settled with his growing family, his wife and now-grown daughter and son.
After banking, Jhaveri began a second career as an entrepreneur. He joined a friend who built and sold two companies. They're on their third together now. The company has pioneered facial recognition technology that helps fight crime. Jhaveri's job is to help build revenue, "Essentially sales," he says modestly.
Meanwhile, Jhaveri's Notre Dame connections have continued to serve him. "Time after time I've gone into business meetings and—I've got this habit of going in early to make small talk—the number of times I have encountered Notre Dame alumni in the room is uncanny," he says. "The business meeting changes after that. I've rarely walked away without a mutually beneficial deal when that happens," he says.
Encountering other alumni, wherever he is, brings their "shared values and experiences" to the fore, offering opportunities to make deeper connections inside and outside of the board room, he says.
As an active member of the Notre Dame Club of Singapore (for alumni and friends), Jhaveri often hosts alumni and admissions counselors who come to the area. Junior undergraduates studying in Australia also make an annual Asia pilgrimage and he enjoys arranging an interesting speaker and reception for them.
Jhaveri's family has lived in Singapore now for 23 years and he enjoys being one of Notre Dame's constant connections to his area of the world. In February of 2014, he flew to Bombay to attend a dinner with University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.—a.k.a. Fr. John—and his delegation. The president was touring Bangladesh and India, visiting Holy Cross Missions and meeting with alumni.
"There's a push to attract students from this area," says Jhaveri, who is eager to help. "I'd really like to see more students from our part of the world know about Notre Dame."
As it happens, Jhaveri's son Jan will be a junior at Notre Dame this year. He applied after a required two-year assignment in the Singapore military.
"Jan has seen the camaraderie of Notre Dame alumni all his life," says Jhaveri, which made Notre Dame a natural contender during Jan's college search. He was also looking for a good business school and had the Mendoza College of Business on his radar, as his dad once did. "But I admit I left it up to him," Jhaveri adds.
Jan applied to a number of schools and on a break during his military service, Jan and his dad visited the U.S. to look at colleges. "We hit 15 schools in 10 days," says Jhaveri, "but he was just blown away by Notre Dame's campus."
Like many students, setting foot on campus for the first time just "felt right," and Jan made the decision to enroll as a business major.
The academics have been challenging, of course, but Jhaveri says his son is in the middle of four of "the best years of his life."
After graduation, he'll join the same global alumni network cherished by his dad.
"The big thing [about graduating from Notre Dame] is of course the connections one has with fellow alums," says Jhaveri. "And when we come back to campus, that phrase 'Welcome Home"—it really is like that every time. It's a homecoming."
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