School Mourns Death of Second-year MBA Student Roanak Desai

Roanak Desai, a member of the Class of 2010, died in a hospital in Maine April 3 after falling ill while on a trip to Africa and the Middle East.

April 08, 2010


Roanak Desai, a member of the Stanford MBA class of 2010, died in a hospital in Maine April 3 after falling ill while on a trip to Africa.

He had become ill last week while on a trip that included stops in Africa and the Middle East. During a flight to New York on his return trip, Desai became so ill that the plane made an emergency landing in Maine on Wednesday, March 31. He was admitted to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and died at the hospital on Saturday evening surrounded by family and friends. His death was related to complications from a severe malaria infection. He was 31 years old.

Devoted to his family, Desai is survived by his parents, Rekha and Valmik Desai and sister, Paayal Desai.

A memorial service and celebration of his life was held April 8 at the Arrillaga Alumni Center on the Stanford campus.

“It is still difficult to come to grips with the fact that such a thing has happened to someone so vibrant and so clearly on a path to have impact in the world,” business school Dean Garth Saloner said in a note to the school community Saturday night announcing the death. “Through his positive spirit, warm humor, generosity, leadership, and intellectual curiosity, Roanak embodied much of what we all love about the GSB. I am deeply saddened.”

Several hundred students, faculty and staff members gathered at the business school’s Schwab Residential Center on Sunday night to honor his memory, chatting quietly with one another and writing notes to be passed on to the Desai family.

At the business school Desai was a member of the student View from the Top committee that identifies business leaders who address students about leadership issues. Earlier this academic year he had conducted interview-conversations with two of the speakers in the program, Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, and Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon.

As a member of the student academic committee Desai had a role in presenting the 2009 MBA Distinguished Teaching Award to Prof. Ilya Strebulaev. In December Desai was a student leader of a study trip to India. He was an officer of the student Entrepreneur Club and part of the Global Management Program’s Student Leadership Team.

Prior to entering the Stanford Graduate School of Business in the fall of 2008, Roanak Desai was vice president and global head of corporate development, as well as investor relations, working for Pramod Bhasin, CEO at Genpact Ltd. in New Delhi. He oversaw strategic initiatives, joint ventures, alliances, and merger and acquisition deals. He ran the strategic marketing group and oversaw operations for investment banking and private equity clients. Lastly, he spearheaded Genpact’s IPO process and built its investor relations department. During those 3.5 years, Desai lived in New Delhi.

Prior to Genpact, he was with GE’s Corporate merger and acquisition team for 2.5 years in Fairfield, Conn. where he worked on a wide range of deals including the acquisitions of Amersham and Universal, and the sales of Genpact, Genworth, FGIC, GE Motors and Garrett Aviation. Desai began his career with JP Morgan’s Investment Banking group in New York, working with financial services companies.

Born in Mumbai (Bombay), India, Desai was raised in Queens, NY, and was a U.S. citizen. He received his undergraduate degree in neurobiology from Harvard College in 2000. While at Harvard, Desai was a member of student organizations including Model Congress, the Prefect Program for peer advising, and the Eliot House Committee. He also volunteered at the Children’s Hospital in Boston where he spent time weekly with children undergoing cancer treatment.

Upon graduation from Harvard, he continued to donate his time, working with Prep for Prep, an organization that identifies New York City’s most promising students of color and prepares them for placement at independent schools in the city. He served on the alumni board of Trinity School in New York City where he had earned his high school diploma, volunteering as an alumni mentor through the Milken Scholars Program to help current scholars transition to college.

By Cathy Castillo

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