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Tampa Bay Area Hosts Hindu American Foundation Gala Dinner

HAF More than 200 people attendees the Tampa Chapter gala organized by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) on Aug. 27. The event at the Hindu Temple of Florida featured a presentation by HAF’s national staff and local chapter leaders, live performances by WAHH! World Fusion Band, and keynote by entrepreneur and medical student, Shaan Patel, of “Shark Tank” fame.

Seetha Aiyar, HAF’s Director of Philanthropic Partnerships, opened the program with an invocation and articulated HAF’s funding needs and goals. Faren Rajkumar, former HAF summer intern, spoke of how much the community’s investment in HAF meant to her as a third-generation Hindu American of Guyanese descent. This was followed by HAF co-founder and board member Aseem Shukla and Murali Balaji, HAF’s Director of Education, who delivered updates on HAF’s work and accomplishments such as progress made on presenting Hinduism equitably in California’s History-Social Science textbook frameworks, USPS issuing a Diwali stamp, and the expansion of HAF’s Hinduism 101 trainings.

Myrna Saraiya served as emcee for the inaugural HAF Tampa Bay Hall of Fame Awards presentation. For their decades of local and global work, philanthropists Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel accepted the Pride of the Community award, presented by HAF Tampa Bay co-founder Nainan Desai. HAF’s Chapter Lead Ramesh Kolli presented the Dharma Seva award to Shantia Singh, a leader in the Guyanese Hindu community who spearheaded several local mandirs. The NextGen Achievement award was bestowed upon sixth-grader Rishi Nair, winner of the 2016 National Geography Bee, and congratulated by Dev Kumbani, former HAF Tampa Bay chapter lead. Manisha Patel received the Advancement of the Dharmic Arts and Humanities award for organizing free meditation classes in several local libraries, presented by Dipa Shah, the incoming HAF Tampa Bay chapter lead.

This event was made possible by local HAF Tampa Bay Chapter coordinators: Myrna Saraiya, Devyani Desai, Kshanika Persaud, Adeeti Joshi, Dipa Shah, Olga Kumbhani, Sharon Persaud, Nainan Desai, Chandresh Saraiya, Nikhil Joshi, Dev Kumbhani, Ramesh Kolli and countless volunteers from the community.

For information about the HAF Tampa Bay chapter or to get involved, email  

Saint Leo University Names Sonty New Chief Information Officer

Vijay Sonty has been named as the Chief Information Officer at Saint Leo University. He is responsible for the leadership and management of the University Technology Services (UTS) operations.

He was most recently vice president for technology and Chief Information Officer at Utica College, Utica, NY. He previously served as executive director-applications and operations at Kaplan Inc.; Chief Information Officer for Broward County Public Schools; and senior vice president and Chief Technology Officer for Foote Cone and Belding.

Sonty earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Osmania University in Hyderabad and master’s degrees in both environmental science and management information systems from Southern Illinois University.

Founded in 1889, Saint Leo University in Saint Leo (about 34 miles from Tampa) is a leading Catholic teaching institution that enrolls almost 16,000 students, more than 40 education center and office locations, and online degree programs.

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