Retired professor continues inspiring students with scholarship created during AUFD
Through decades of hard work and determination, Professor Emeritus Sid Mittra, Ph.D., CFP, built a career as an acclaimed educator, author and businessman. The fact that he only had $8 in his pocket when he left his home in India to start a new life in the United States in 1957 is just a small part of the story.
After earning his Ph.D. from the University of Florida, Mittra’s early career included consultant to the U.S. Agency for International Development in Venezuela and the United Nations, where he served in Bangkok, Thailand. In 1966 he moved to Michigan where he joined the faculty of Oakland University’s Department of Economics.
In addition to his academic career, Mittra developed into a recognized financial planning expert who authored more than 100 articles and papers in publications across the globe. One of his texts, Practicing Financial Planning for Professionals and CFP Aspirants®, now in its 12th edition, “has become an institution,” according to Harold Evensky, former Chairman, CFP Board.
Sid Mittra: A Distinguished Career
Striving to improve
As a professor, teaching economics and finance was his job, but his personal mission was inspiring his students to be the best they could be. To do that, he reached out to them in ways that would challenge them to think deeply.
That dedication led Mittra to start his own business as a financial planning consultant “because I wanted to become a better communicator,” he says. His evaluations as a professor then, he recalls, were average. He wanted to learn how to engage his students to get them to listen and understand, not just memorize. Starting a business where he would speak one-on-one to people was a way for him to learn by doing. Soon after, “my evaluations jumped to the top,” Mittra says, and he found he could motivate his students in ways he never had before.
“With the blessings of my department chair, the dean and the president, in every class I set aside 10 minutes at the end to talk about life,” he says. He shared stories from his life as well as from the lives of historical figures, citing, for example, the hundreds of failures Thomas Edison faced before inventing the light bulb.
“Through these stories, I tried to communicate that whatever difficulties you’re encountering, they’re nothing compared to what others faced and still succeeded,” Mittra says. “I felt many students would enroll in my class just for those ten minutes.”
The appreciation his students showed underscored Mittra’s commitment to not just “transfer knowledge but rather to inspire every single student to accomplish something they didn’t think they could achieve.” Over the years, he heard back from graduates who said they, too, had been on the brink of failure, but came back to earn the doctorates, start their own companies, or rise through the ranks of their organizations thanks to Mittra’s lessons.
Giving back to say thank you
Boarding that plane to America was the first step in Mittra’s journey to a lifetime of helping others. A philanthropist who has long supported causes in America and India, Mittra established an endowed scholarship for Oakland business students majoring in Economics.
Though he and his late wife, Bani, had contributed to an annual scholarship, they wanted to ensure future generations of hard-working Economic students at Oakland would have the critical financial support necessary to meet their potential. They ensured that legacy with an endowed scholarship, created during Oakland’s All University Fund Drive.
The scholarship is one of the many ways Mittra demonstrates his gratitude to the country that became his home. “It all comes down to the fact that I was 27 years old and had nothing but a dream, and $8 in my pocket,” he says. “It was the generosity and continuous support of the American people that made my dream come true and got me to where I am today.”
With the Sid and Bani Mittra Economics Scholarship, Mittra continues to help Oakland University students find their path to success and fulfillment.