Bala V. Balachandran (J.L. Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Accounting & Information Management (emeritus in service), Northwestern University and Founder, Chairman & Dean (emeritus) of Great Lakes Institute of Management, India, passed away Monday, September 27, 2021, at his residence in Northbrook, IL, after a brief illness. He was 84.
Beloved husband of Vasantha, nee Dandapani; dear father of Sudhakar (Purnima) and Diwakar (Aparna); cherished grandfather of Arjun, Shreyes, Ajay, and Abirami; devoted brother of V. Sankaran (late), V. Srinivasan, and N. Gita, V. Nagarajan and N. Ramamoorthy (late).
Born in Pudukottai, Prof. Bala (or ‘Uncle Bala’ as he was fondly known among his students) completed his collegiate education at the Annamalai University, Chidambaram, served in the Indian Army briefly before departing to the US to pursue his Doctoral studies. From there began an illustrious career as Professor, Consultant, Mentor, Author, Entrepreneur, Life Coach and so much more. He helped recruit the first set of faculty members to IIM Bangalore in the late 60s, set up the Management Department at the MDI at Gurgaon through a joint collaboration with UNDP, Wharton and Kellogg. Working closely with the then CM of Andhra Pradesh Shri N Chandrababu Naidu, his vision for a one-year-fast-track MBA program for working professionals was realized with the ISB in 2000 where he served on the Dean-search, faculty and curriculum committees. In 2004, he trained his sights on his native Tamil Nadu to set up Great Lakes Institute of Management which today has another campus at Gurgaon and is one of the best b-schools in the country. He received the 4th highest civilian award – the Padma Shri in 2001 for his contribution to education.
An eminent scholar, full of warmth and joie de vivre, Prof. Balachandran lived the life of a true Karma Yogi often stressing to his students that to do one’s duty in life was the best accomplishment of all. His life was filled with milestones and accolades of the finest kind.
Learning/education was a cornerstone of Prof. Bala’s existence. He encouraged us to read and to keep learning and not to stop simply because we had completed college and didn’t need to. This was important to him even when he was seeking a bride as a young man – the only condition he imposed on his parents when they were looking for suitable alliances for him was that the lady must be college-educated and a teacher. It is therefore no surprise that his entire existence revolved around this fundamental belief in the power of knowledge and learning.
It is well-known that man is a social animal. To Prof. Bala, this represented yet another cornerstone. He took the effort to connect with people and also to stay in touch with them. He thrived on social contact and was in his element while entertaining or hosting events. His penchant for acting and drama, singing and mimicry were put to excellent use in these situations and usually brought the whole house down. That he truly believed in building lasting relationships is evident from the fact that he would go out of the way to make people feel special sometimes even inconveniencing himself in the process. He never expected anything in return. Plus the fact that he had the memory of an elephant was handy – he did not forget a face, name or meeting.
The next core aspect of Prof. Bala’s personality is his eternal optimism. Courageous and brave, he never hesitated to take on formidable challenges. One of his oft-repeated quotes is that ‘we must convert challenges to opportunities’. He has the unique distinction of having been called ‘crazy’ by many notable personalities for his seemingly preposterous ideas. He didn’t bear any ill will towards them but didn’t stop dreaming either. He certainly worked like crazy to convert those ideas to reality much to the amazement of all the nay-sayers. His ‘never-say-die’ attitude coupled with his charming ‘I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer’ truly worked wonders.
As a parent he led by example. Punctuality, discipline, a conscientious work ethic, success through merit, celebration of milestones, the constant striving to give more to than take from the world, the importance of kindness, humility and generosity, the value of human life, the need for strong ties with friends and family, a fine appreciation of culture and tradition etc. were all drummed into our system simply because he lived by these principles and never once compromised on any of these for the sake of material gain.
As a couple Mrs. Vasantha and Prof. Bala supported each other as friends and partners throughout their married life. Behind every successful man is a very strong woman and Mrs. Vasantha is no exception. That they shared a similar value system ensured that their marriage was built on a solid foundation of care, mutual respect and affection.
Prof. Bala lived his life to the fullest – a life filled with its fair share of ups and downs, wonderful surprises and nasty shocks. He became the responsible, load-bearing adult in the family pretty early on in his life mastering the roles of a devoted son and sibling. While he made many sacrifices to ensure the well-being of his family, he did not lose his joie de vivre in the process. He found joy in the littlest of things and celebrated the simplest pleasures in life. He lived big and bold, made a huge impact on all of us and now that he has left us, there is an equally large hole in our hearts.
Dr. Balachandran was a devoted husband and father and loved his grandchildren and extended family.
Family and friends will meet on Wednesday, September 29, 2021, for private funeral services at HABEN Funeral Home & Crematory, Skokie. [Please note: In compliance with CDC, State, and local COVID guidelines, face masks are mandatory indoors regardless of vaccination status.]
Those wishing to participate virtually may do so using the following Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 811 4859 1079
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial gifts be made to NorthShore University HealthSystem Foundation, Designation: Community Health Center, 1033 University Place, Suite 450, Evanston, IL, 60201 or online at https://foundation.northshore.org/donate.
Funeral info: 847.673.6111.