They Traveled 8,000 Miles to Find Each Other
Next time you’re standing in a long line, consider that it might just change your life.
That’s exactly what happened 35 years ago to Sujata Banerjee and Vibhu Mittal, whose “how we met” story traverses two continents — with USC Viterbi playing a starring role.
“We actually attended the same university for our undergraduate work in India and had some of the same friends there, but incredibly, we never met,” Mittal said. “Instead, we met in a registration line at USC.”
That was in 1988, and thus began a friendship — and then a life together — that saw advanced degrees, cross-country moves and eventually settling in Silicon Valley. A member of USC Viterbi’s Board of Councilors, Banerjee obtained her Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1993 and is currently vice president of research for leading cloud computing company VMware. Mittal, an entrepreneur, earned his Ph.D. in computer science, also in 1993.
The couple has always appreciated the important role that USC Viterbi has played in their lives — “It is the first place I really ‘landed’ in the U.S. after coming from India,” said Banerjee — and it is a big reason behind one of their recent philanthropic decisions.
When the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Human-Centered Computation Hall opens in 2024, it will have Banerjee’s and Mittal’s names eternally attached, as the couple has provided the naming gift for the building’s auditorium. With a 300-person capacity, the space will serve as a hub for everything from lectures to events, from speaker series to competition presentations.
“For us, it is a sense of honor to have this opportunity,” Banerjee said.
At 116,000 square feet, Ginsburg Hall will integrate the newly named Thomas Lord Department of Computer Science into a seven-story structure that will serve as home for the new School of Advanced Computing, a key part of the university’s Frontiers of Computing initiative.
“It is exciting that USC Viterbi is integrating computer science into every walk of life and doing it in a way to impact society,” said Banerjee. “What I love is that there will be a focus on interdisciplinary work and ethicality. A group of amazingly talented people will be thinking about engineering holistically while making a difference.”
The feeling is mutual among staff and faculty. “Sujata and Vibhu’s professional lives embody excellence in computer science,” said Gaurav Sukhatme, USC Viterbi’s executive vice dean of engineering. “Their personal dedication to higher education is exemplary.”
One of Ginsburg Hall’s most significant effects on USC Viterbi will be the school’s ability to recruit.
“It will attract potential students and exceptional faculty members,” Mittal said. “It is definitely a good time for computer science at USC.”
Along with their philanthropic work, the couple is happy to represent and support USC Viterbi in other ways as well.
“Being on the Board of Councilors has been a way to stay connected,” Banerjee said. “I always enjoy the overviews about the strides USC Viterbi has made. Dean Yortsos has been an amazing leader, and it permeates through the school.”
Mittal believes giving back is important for anyone seeking to support the university, the school and their collective vision.
“It is a lifelong seed investment, and I also see it as family,” said Mittal, who sits on the computer science department’s advisory board. “It is a great way to see what one’s alma mater is doing, and it is a wonderful networking opportunity.”