From Bombay To Burien: Meet Dr. Arun Jhaveri
by Mark Neuman
Imagine that same boy, just a few years later, on August 15, 1947, being held lovingly by his family atop the hood of a car as they and millions of others celebrate India’s independence from British rule.
Visualize a young graduate student in Amherst, Massachusetts, being utterly moved by the words and visions of a young U.S. President, “full of energy, strong in his views and personality,” delivering a 1962 commencement speech, a mere 15 rows away.
See a trim and vibrant gentleman recently sipping decaffeinated coffee in Olde Burien, who keeps in shape by swimming several laps every day, and tending to his garden at the same house he and his wife have lived in for almost forty years.
Conjure all of that, and you will see Dr. Arun Jhaveri, the first mayor of Burien.
“Our whole family crammed into our little car, including all the kids,” he said with a smile during an interview last week with the B-Town Blog, referring to that August 1947, day. “They put me on top because I was the youngest and I remember going around the city the whole evening, fireworks going. People were just jubilant.”
When asked if politics was part of his upbringing, Dr. Jhaveri’s answer is more than a mere Yes.
“My uncle was a very active member of the Congress Party, before the independence, against the British Crown,” Dr. Jhaveri said. The Congress Party was the political party of Mahatma Gandhi and future Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
“My uncle looked very much like Nehru in his personality. He wore the white cap and the long white coat and everything. My grandfather, my father and my uncle had just gone to a political rally in Bombay. And after the rally they were coming back in a horse-drawn carriage. A fanatic saw my uncle and mistook him for Nehru. The fanatic came from behind and killed my uncle with a dagger.”
The Jhaveri family was soon visited by Gandhi and Nehru, who came to express their condolences.
Young Jhaveri eventually moved to the U.S., earning his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Washington, before moving on to earn his Masters in Physics from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
On that “beautiful day” 46 years ago, “President Kennedy was such a charismatic leader, the way he spoke to the students. I was extremely inspired,” Dr. Jhaveri recalled. “It was an excellent opportunity for me to see a real president just a few feet from me speak about educational and political issues.”
Dr. Jhaveri, a physicist and mechanical engineer, earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Seattle University, and, early on, worked for Boeing on the development of the 727, 737 and 747 aircrafts prior to their FAA certification.
Dr. Jhaveri worked in 1992 to help earn Burien a little independence of its own, so to speak. The voters said Yes that year to Burien becoming a city in its own right, and the new City Council elected him Mayor. He served from 1992 to 1998.
In 1997, Dr. Jhaveri was one of eleven mayors from the United States to participate in the Global Climate Conference in Kyoto, Japan.
Jhaveri is co-authoring a book, titled “Carbon Reduction – Policies, Strategies and Technologies.” It is scheduled for release later this year.
He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the Argosy University, teaching two Doctoral courses, one on Educational Leadership and the other on Program Evaluation.
“I am an eternal optimist,” Dr. Jhaveri says. “The key is to educate the young people of today – about the care of the world’s environment.
“The earth’s future is truly in their hands.”
Mark Neuman is a Writer as well as Marketing Dude for The B-Town (Burien) Blog.
He has interviewed two US Presidents, cops, cooks and cartoonists, authors and artists, senators, scholars and senior citizens, and the B-Town Blog is proud to have him on our team.
Mark can be reached at [email protected].