Family creates scholarship to honor wife, mother

January 30, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A father, his two sons who are Penn State graduates and his daughter have established a scholarship fund in their wife and mother's memory.

The Vijaya L. Balaji Memorial Scholarship in the College of Communications is open to all students at the University Park campus who have a demonstrated financial need and whose cultural, ethnic and/or national background would contribute to the diversity of the student body. First preference will be given to students who are the first generation in their families to attend a college or university.

The fund was created by Kodumudi Balaji, Murali Balaji (2009 doctorate in mass communications), Arvind Balaji (2010 bachelor's in journalism) and Lakshmi Balaji in honor of Vijaya, who strongly believed in making the most of educational opportunities. She was married just before her 21st birthday and came to the United States from India, where such opportunities were not as readily available.

“She instilled the importance of getting an education in all of us,” said Murali, an assistant professor at Temple University who was honored with a graduate teaching award while he was at Penn State earning his doctoral degree. “When I got my Ph.D. my mom was already terminal but she came to graduation. She didn’t have much energy but she was overjoyed.”

A journalist who worked for The Washington Post, St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press and Wilmington (Del.) News Journal, Murali earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and amassed more than a decade of professional journalism experience before coming to Penn State. He previously taught communications classes at Temple, the University of Minnesota and Delaware State University.

Lakshmi earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and her master’s from Villanova University.

“Arvind will probably get a graduate degree, too,” Murali said. “That’s just what Mom expected. She even went back to get her degree in computer arts from a local community college. She put so much effort into those classes.”

An engaging teacher, Murali has authored several books, including “Desi Rap: South Asian Americans in Hip Hop.” His forthcoming publications include “Culturing Manhood and Masculinities,” an anthology exploring the meaning and construct of masculinity around the world.

He rates himself as a tough teacher and credits his mother as his guiding influence -- despite not taking her advice to go a little easier on students.

“My entire pedagological approach, my outlook on life as an academic, comes from her,” Murali said. “It’s about investing in others. That’s Mom’s legacy, and the scholarship is just a down payment on an investment in a Penn State student’s future.”

Scholarship support is the top priority of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, a University-wide fundraising effort directed toward a shared vision of Penn State as the most comprehensive, student-centered research university in America. The University is engaging Penn State’s alumni and friends as partners in achieving six key objectives: ensuring student access and opportunity, enhancing honors education, enriching the student experience, building faculty strength and capacity, fostering discovery and creativity, and sustaining the University’s tradition of quality. The For the Future campaign is the most ambitious effort of its kind in Penn State’s history, with the goal of securing $2 billion by 2014.

  • Vijaya Balaji (left) with her family (left to right) Murali, Kodumudi, Lakshmi and Arvind.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated February 05, 2013