Share / Discuss

A Lasting Legacy

It was the trees.

Yes, Quaker values and academic rigor helped persuade Karan Madan ’91 to choose Swarthmore when he opted to attend college in the United States. But what made up his mind was the natural beauty of campus that he’d seen in the brochures—those gorgeous trees.

“I thought, What better place to study?” he says.

Those trees are still here; they’ve grown and flourished in the quarter-century since Karan’s graduation. Something else has, too: Today, he’s driving his son Arjun ’21 back to Swarthmore to begin his second semester.

“I’m excited,” Karan laughs. “I’d love for him to partake in the experiences that were important to me when I was a student, but I also want to step back and let him have his own.”

Karan grew up in India, went to high school in Wales, and came to Swarthmore as an international student. In fact, this helped define his identity on campus: Not only was he president of the International Club, but most of his best friends were also new to the U.S.

Although he played squash and started an intramural soccer club called The Flying Turbans in honor of the headwear he then donned, Karan preferred to spend his time with friends, hanging out in the amphitheater or planning campus cultural activities. He was particularly close to Larry Westphal, the J. Archer and Helen C. Turner Professor of Economics, joining him as a research assistant in the Netherlands after graduation.

“He always joked, ‘When you get rich on Wall Street, buy a gold chair for me,’” says Karan. “I was proud to do something even better, when I helped fund the ongoing Larry and Myrt Westphal Scholarship at Swarthmore.”

Driven by a desire to save the world, Karan worked at the U.N. and World Bank, but ultimately realized he could have a larger social impact helping companies grow. Today, he’s managing director and head of emerging markets and foreign exchange for the Americas at the investment bank Nomura.

Born in Britain, Arjun grew up in New York City, a gifted student who excelled at Latin and has played the tabla since kindergarten. For as much as he admires his father, following so closely in his footsteps was something he weighed carefully.

“The biggest factor in me choosing Swarthmore—bigger than a family connection—was knowing that this is a liberal arts school with an engineering program,” he says. “I knew I could come here and pursue a wide variety of things. Plus, since I played four years of high school golf and loved it, knowing I could play for Swarthmore’s team was huge.”

Passionate about music, Arjun also co-hosts a Wednesday-night radio show on WSRN with friend Steve Hergenroeder ’21, Deep Sound Presents: Tasty Tracks, where the pair play and discuss their favorite house, trance, and dance music. He’s a sportswriter for the Phoenix and looks forward to deepening his existing Swarthmore friendships while developing new ones.

It means a lot to the father to see his son so confident and thoughtful, especially since being back on campus can blur the lines dividing present, past, and future.

“We went to get pizza at Renato’s in the Ville,” Karan says, “and it was the same guy working there from 25 years ago! We all laughed about how much has changed.”

“It’s nice to know one thing that won’t,” says Arjun. “Both of us going to Swarthmore is a bond I’m proud my dad and I will always share.”

Ladder Leader

“When visiting campus with Arjun last spring, Karan began a conversation with us about opening a recruiting relationship between Swarthmore and Nomura,” says Nancy Burkett, Swarthmore’s director of career services. “He believes our liberal arts education provides a strong foundation for a career in finance.

“As a student, Karan was a Career Peer Advisor, and he continues to apply that educational and mentoring lens. Through his efforts, three Swarthmore juniors were hired as summer interns at Nomura and one senior was hired as a full-time sales and trading analyst. He also has supported externs for many years, from when he was at Barclays, Deutsche Bank, and Merrill Lynch, to today.

“Karan Madan is making a real difference in the lives of our students, and we’re very grateful for his support.”



“Although Swarthmore was not a target school in the past, Karan came here to hold all-day campus interviews to meet as many Swatties as he could.

“I was very nervous because it is extremely rare to have such a senior person interview students, but Karan was very kind and genuinely interested in what I’ve done here. He was also extremely helpful by sharing his own experience in the financial services industry, and how he got there from Swarthmore.

“When I received an offer, I accepted immediately—Karan’s an unbelievable personal and professional mentor.”



“It’s a rarity for a managing director to do this kind of thing, but there he was. So when Karan was talking, I was taking notes: I knew I did not want to miss out on any advice he had to offer.

“I know he will continue to provide a wealth of information and I will seek out his mentorship during—and after—my internship. I would not be where I am without his commitment to helping Swatties break into the competitive world of banking and finance.”



“Karan helped me get a more realistic sense of what my own finance experience would—and could—be like. His generosity and thoughtfulness in guiding us through the interview process was invaluable.

“We both believe that Swarthmore students have the advantage of being different from the usual candidates for these internships—we take a diverse range of classes and build a large set of skills so we can approach issues in creative ways.” 



“Liberal arts institutions like Swarthmore encourage students to study what they love and apply it. As a result of my education here, I have developed an interest in international markets and macroeconomics, and my relationship with Karan has been instrumental in me pursuing it.

“Nomura is a global firm known for ‘connecting markets east and west.’ I have sought to do exactly this with my Swarthmore education and am looking to continue this journey in my professional life, as well. 

“After I graduate, I hope to follow in Karan’s footsteps in another way, too, and act as a mentor to fellow Swatties.”