Kundlas Clan Makes Mark at USF Honors College
Their spacious, stately home in Winter Haven is filled with far more than ornately styled wooden furnishings and countless framed portraits. Inside this two-story house on a quiet, Central Florida street, a third story unfolds – of a modern family that honors tradition and, you might say, honors college.
These days, Dr. Kulmeet Kundlas and wife Manjit, natives of India who made a new life in America some 30 years ago, have grown accustomed to being empty-nesters. They return from work at night from their nearby internal medicine practice to a strangely quiet household. That’s because their two children – son Ajay, 21, and daughter Anmol, 19 – are busy thriving as pre-med students in the Honors College at the University of South Florida.
The good news is that Ajay and Anmol are less than an hour’s drive from campus to home, meaning that Anmol can easily continue performing with her mother in colorful, classical Indian dance recitals and competitions around the state when time permits, and Ajay, who towers over his family members at a strapping 6-foot-5, can get away for a home-cooked meal. Meanwhile, mom and dad don’t have to wait months at a time to see the kids they love so much.
But that’s hardly all there is to the tale of the tight-knit Kundlas clan. It’s also a narrative of gratitude, generosity and a growing family affair — with a USF twist.
Bear in mind that Ajay and Anmol — each of them boasting stellar academic and athletic accomplishments in high school – could have attended any of dozens of top schools around the country to pursue their ambitions. But they chose USF.
“We both wanted to go here because it has so much to offer us in the Honors program,” says Ajay, during a recent short visit home with his sister. “And obviously, that made our parents very happy, too, because they really hoped we would stay closer to home.”
Much to their parents’ delight, Ajay and Anmol opted for the seven-year pre-med track program in the Honors College. That gives them the flexibility to earn their bachelor’s degree a year early and, if they achieve the necessary grades and MCAT scores, to enter the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine ahead of schedule.
In addition, the promising path each has pursued at USF has now inspired their parents to author a new chapter – this one centered on a theme of philanthropy.
When Ajay and Anmol were growing up, Kulmeet and Manjit saved diligently to be able to send them to whatever college or university in the country would best meet their needs. But the parents increasingly heard rave reviews about nearby USF – courtesy of friends and fellow members of Winter Haven’s medical community, Drs. Caroline and Alan Honculada, who had been inspired to donate to the Honors College after seeing how it benefitted their son.
Soon enough, USF’s Honors College was on the family’s radar, and the kids were on their way to becoming Bulls. That meant Kulmeet and Manjit no longer needed the college funds they’d been accumulating, since their children’s costs would now be covered by Florida’s Bright Futures scholarships and other awards. Yet instead of putting the money back in the household budget, they had another thought.
”Essentially, Ajay and Anmol were going to college almost for free,” explains their father. “So my wife and I sat down one day and came up with an idea. We said, ‘Our children no longer need this money that God has provided, so let’s pass it on to those who do.’”
The gift came together gradually in 2013 and 2014 — forged from a process of getting to know then-Honors Dean Dr. Stuart Silverman and soon-to-be Dean Charles Adams, and meetings with the college’s Director of Development, Judy Kane. Finally, on Aug. 5, 2014, one day after Dean Adams’ first day on the job, Kulmeet and Manjit arrived on campus with the agreement in hand to establish a $100,000 scholarship endowment. With that, the K.M. Kundlas Scholarship for full-time Honors College students in need of financial aid was born, providing two deserving students each academic year with funds to defray expenses.
“We love when people get a college education they deserve,” says Manjit. “You can do so much with a foundation of knowledge. We have two wonderful children, and we just wanted to be able to make a difference in the lives of other children with the extra money. It’s our way of contributing to the community, and to the University of South Florida, because it has given us so much.”
Now, the university is getting even more from the Kundlas connection – two new members of the family. Understandably, Manjit couldn’t help but sing the praises of the Honors College program to her sister in Southern California, Satvinder Gill. And that got the gears turning 3,000 miles away.
Mrs. Gill and her husband assumed that their two teenage children – top high school students planning to pursue pre-med tracks – would stay close to home and attend any of the prestigious institutions that had expressed interest, such as Berkeley and UCLA.
But the more the Gills heard about USF’s Honors College and its seven-year program, the more they were sold.
Fast forward to this fall: Sandeep Gill is starting his second year in the program, and sister Simran is in the midst of her first semester as a freshman Honors student. “It’s very exciting,” says Satvinder. “As parents we looked at all the pros and cons, and we concluded that this would be the best opportunity for them.”
Dean Adams is equally excited by the turn of events. “I’m just delighted that the Honors College is becoming a family tradition for the Kundlases,” he says. “And we’re so appreciative of their generosity – both in material terms with their scholarship, but also in how they’ve spread the word so enthusiastically about USF and the Honors College.”
The result: The Kundlases are on an Honors roll, with a script that’s all in the family.