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Accounting professor Alex Thevaranjan is guided in life by a sense of personal purpose: helping young people discover themselves.

I believe in contributing to the development of young people academically, socially, and spiritually, says Thevaranjan, a native of Sri Lanka who has taught at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management since earning a Ph.D. in accounting at the University of Minnesota in 1993. He believes peace and happiness are natural byproducts of a life filled with purpose, and that such a life blesses others in the process. I want to help students find the precious diamond within, he says. I am passionate about helping them find a sense of direction in life and discover their mission in this world."

Beyond working with students in the classroom as a teacher, a profession he cherishes, Thevaranjan regularly opens his heart and home to children and students from many nations. My wife and I have a multinational family, he says. They have two sons, ages 15 and 14, and an 11-year-old daughter, adopted last year from Sri Lanka. She has a mixed parentage of Tamils and Sinhalese, two ethnic groups that have been in conflict for decades. Adopting Asha which means hope in Sanskrit was something very close to our hearts, he says, a way of making a statement about the possibility of peace between warring parties. The couple also sponsor the studies of nearly 30 students in Sri Lanka, and are host parents for two exchange students at Syracuses Nottingham High School one from Ecuador and one from South Korea. Two SU graduate students, including one from China, complete their international household.

Thevaranjan's love for the global community is also reflected in the extensive traveling he did last summer, when he visited 13 countries on five continents. In Singapore, he led the management summer internship program sponsored by the Division of International Programs Abroad, which he has directed for five years. As part of my desire to help students discover their dreams and pursue them, I think it is valuable to expose them to different learning environments,he says. His journey also took him to Sri Lanka, doing relief work for tsunami-affected families through Syracuse for Sri Lanka, the nonprofit organization he founded. The group set a goal to raise funds to build 100 permanent brick houses in Batticaloa and sponsor living and education expenses for 100 children a year. To date, more than 60 families have moved into their new homes, and 30 houses are under construction, says Thevaranjan, who holds a bachelors degree in civil engineering. He believes Syracuse for Sri Lanka is unique and highly successful in that there are no overhead costs; every dollar donated goes directly to relief efforts. We responded to the need, and God gave us the grace, he says. When people work together, demonstrating compassion for another?s needs, miracles can happen."

In his research, Thevaranjan focuses on incorporating ethics into existing economic models. In the classroom, he emphasizes fundamentals, active learning, and practical applications. I share with students on the first day of class that I am their coach, not an adversary, he says. I tell them: Accounting is the opponent you are playing against, and I want you to do well. But I am a tough coach, because I want you to win. He believes motivation is a key factor in educating students, and often performs magic and card tricks for students to gain their interest. I don't do tricks for the sake of doing tricks, but to teach a concept, he says. This is a way of bringing my teaching skills and my hobby together for a higher purpose."

-Amy Shires