“Making a positive difference to the life of somebody else is a fulfilling way to honour my sister…”
Raj Bux graduated from the University with a BSc in Modern Mathematics in 1983. Following a global career, he established the Yasmin Bux Scholarship in memory of his late younger sister. He tells us more about his career, Yasmin and why Surrey alumni should support students…
“I worked for a large US multinational but I left a couple of years ago,” says Raj. “I had a lot to deal with. My brother-in-law, my sister and my mother all passed away recently. If I‘d stayed in a demanding corporate job, I wouldn’t have had the precious time I spent with them and the rest of my family.
“But with my son, Daniel, going to University, I’m ready to launch into something new…”
And that will involve a relationship with Surrey after Raj established a scholarship in memory of his late sister.
From Surrey to Michigan
Raj’s links with the University began in 1980 when he arrived to study Modern Mathematics after attending an open day. Though he admits he also selected Surrey because “it was close enough to London so that I could go home most weekends. Asian families are close-knit. To my mum, moving a mere 35 miles to Guildford seemed like I was going very far away.”
After a successful first year, Raj spent his second studying at Michigan State University in the USA.
“Surrey had a scholarship exchange programme,” he explains. “The fees covered tuition, flights, accommodation and meals. I even had money to spend outside of term time, which meant I could explore a bit of America. It was an awesome experience. My mum, though, thought I was effectively going to the far end of the Universe.”
From Lewisham to Singapore
Raj returned to Surrey in 1982 and graduated in 1983. He admits he didn’t have a career plan.
“I had a vague idea I eventually wanted a management role in a renowned corporate company,” he reflects. “That was about it…”
Roles as a graduate trainee at a Marks & Spencer in Lewisham, and a New Systems Manager at Rexel followed. After qualifying as a Management Accountant, he landed jobs at the Royal Automobile Club and a subsidiary of Sun Alliance.
Then Raj secured a position at American Express, which included various senior roles based in London, Hong Kong, New York and Singapore. These included general management, business operations and re-engineering, finance, internal audit, product development and risk management.
At the end of the financial crisis, he moved to another large US multinational, Visa. He’s lived in Singapore for the last 20 years, which was where he reconnected with Surrey.
“Although the University visited Singapore from time to time, it seemed I was always traveling! However, in 2022, the University held an alumni event in Singapore,” reveals Raj. “The visiting team talked about the research that was happening on campus and the work to support students.
“I also talked with the Philanthropy Team and their work connected with me. When my daughter, Zarina, went to university, she told me about her friends who struggled financially. Some of them took on two part-time jobs just to get through their courses. Then they left with huge debts.
“Zarina also told me about a friend who wanted to study abroad for a term but couldn’t afford it. I agreed to help. During the Singapore visit, I mentioned I again wanted to give something back again in a meaningful way.”
The Yasmin Bux Scholarship
Another inspiration for Raj’s desire to “give something back” was to honour the memory of his late sister, Yasmin.
“Yasmin was two years younger than me,” explains Raj. “She had a huge personality, she was vivacious, and she was always the life and soul of the party.
“In the summer of 2022, she was diagnosed with brain lymphoma. She had tumours that impacted on certain parts of her brain. After four rounds of chemotherapy, the tumours aggressively returned.
“We asked the specialist how many months she had left. He said it was a matter of weeks. She passed away in December 2022. Making a positive difference to the life of somebody else is a good way to celebrate her life and memory.”
Raj remains convinced that supporting students is vital and Surrey alumni should be encouraged to play their part.
“Universities are building the leaders of tomorrow, but we're burdening these individuals with huge debts,” says Raj. “We’re disadvantaging an entire generation.
“Take my son, for example. A degree will allow him to turn a passion for animals into a study of Zoology. He’ll have the chance to build a career in animal care or conservation. But not everyone will have that opportunity.
“I came from a low-income family and my course fees and my maintenance grant were covered in full. The exchange program scholarship I received meant I could study in the USA. It was amazing. It’s incumbent on graduates, such as myself, to support the next generation. Since we’ve had advantages, we need to ensure they’re available to other people.”
Learn more about the Yasmin Bux Scholarship.