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A Son of a Priest, now Hero in a World's Best University PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Pradeep Thapa Magar   
Thursday, 25 June 2009 09:29
New York- This is news about a remarkable Koirala. The Koirala family is generally thought of as Girijaprasad Koirala and his relatives and cronies, but this young forest scientist neither has a link to that more famous Koirala family nor does he even know them.

Rajesh Koirala receiving his degree from the Dean of  Yale University, Forestry & Environments Studies, James Gustave Speth. Photos: eEyeCam

On May 25, the young Koirala named Rajesh Koirala, received his graduate degree from one of the world's most prestigious universities: Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Always First in His Class

Rajesh was born in 1983 in Paoti VDC-8 Koirala Gaun, Dolakha district, Nepal. He never came in second in his class; on the contrary, he always came in first. He passed his SLC (School Leaving Certificate) in 1st Division, the only one from his school to pass.

Son of a Priest

Rajesh's father, Dilliprasad Koirala, is a former sipoy in the Nepal Army. Now 70, the senior Koirala  performs rites and rituals in the village. Rajesh's mom is now 60. Rajesh says "My mother is my inspiration and motivation. We did not get chance to be close to our father because he was absent so much with the army and working at his priestly duties."

Rajesh's older brother Rajendraprasad Koirala is studying for his MBA in Nepal. His sister Ambika Koirala is married to Balaram Pokhrel.

Preparation for Higher Education and a flight to Yale

After his SLC in 2000, Rajesh arrived for the first time in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, but later decided to enroll in the Forestry College in Pokhara instead. There he did well,  scoring higher than his classmates who attended elite schools. He came in 2nd in his first year and topped the whole college in his final year.
Rajesh graduated from Pokhara Forestry College in 2006 and worked one year for Nepal Swiss Community Forestry Project.

Meanwhile, he applied for his Master’s Degree in Forestry at several universities around the world. To his surprise, he received offers from universities in more than 6 countries. He eventually narrowed his choice to the United States and Yale University’s elite School of Forestry.

Once he arrived at Yale in August 2007, he studied hard for the next two years.  This year he achieved his goal of Masters Degree in Forest Science.

Hero at Commencement Parade
Rajesh looking at eEyeCam 
Besides that success, Rajesh was selected by the dean's office based on academic grade and extra performance to be one of the four Student Marshals from his department at the Yale’s 308th Commencement Parade. Representing his class, he was conferred his degree by the President of the university, Richard Charles Levin. Student Marshals represent their classmates by receiving their degrees from the president;  later, each Dean presents individual degrees and awards at their separate schools. There were 1,302 Masters Degree recipients this year and 90 were from Forestry.

When Hillary Loved
Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, the United States. Photos: eEyeCam

By coincidence, Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of the State to the US Government was seated on the platform to receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

When Rajesh went to the platform to represent his fellow Forestry graduates in receiving his degree, his mortarboard transformed to a mini forest of branches, flowers and the flag of Nepal, Hillary took notice of his creativity and made a comment but in his eagerness, Rajesh was too excited to hear it. A friend told him later: “I love your hat”, were Mrs. Clinton’s words.
Rajesh with his cap full of plants, flowers and flag of Nepal.
Cheers! Rajesh after receiving his degree from President of Yale University.

I was there to celebrate and witness Rajesh's memorable moment. His parents could not come so he invited Margaret and me to accept the honor of being his family-for-the-day. We drove to New Haven a day earlier with our friend Sangini Rana Magar who was visiting from Nepal, and feted him with a family dinner that also included Margaret’s family members, at a local Indian restaurant.
L to R: I am with Neelesh's mother, Rajesh, Neelesh, Neelesh' father, Margaret and Sangini.

During the celebrations, we met another Nepali student from Budhanilkantha, Kathmandu: Neeleshman Shrestha. Neelesh completed his Masters Degree in Environmental Science at the School of Forestry.
Rajesh with Neeleshman Shrestha. Photos: eEyeCam 

A plan to return Nepal

Rajesh was the first son to go abroad from his village and for now he hasn't made immediate plans to return to Nepal. One can take the opportunity to stay and work for one year after the graduation, he explained. "Right now, I am working with Prof. Ashton as an assistant Researcher. Here I can accumulate more knowledge and experiences to one day make a contribution to our country. I am just trying to develop myself in this regard. But surely, one day, I will return.

Wow, what a nice thought from a nice Koirala! My best wishes go to Rajesh Koirala for his successes and achievements in the future. As we say, "Nepal's wealth is Nepal's Jungle", we should expect Rajesh to one day become a great asset to our beloved country of Nepal.

-Pradeep Thapa Magar in New York. Comments? 917-570-1098. Or, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Read this feature news in Nepali:
Margaret Carne-Thapa greeting rajesh Koirala with traditional Nepali Khada, the sacred scarf. Photos: eEyeCam
Rajesh and Neelesh with Deb P. Jaisi, Interdepartmental Bateman Scholar, Dept. of Geology & Geophysics, Yale University and his wife Subhadra Banjade Jaisi and son Sudesh, 7. 
Rajesh with Sangini and Margaret. Photos: eEyeCam 


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