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Dr. V. Setty Pendakur: The Call to Serve

By Ashley Stephens,, 18 Mar, 2015
  • Dr. V. Setty Pendakur: The Call to Serve
  • Dr. V. Setty Pendakur: The Call to Serve
  • Dr. V. Setty Pendakur: The Call to Serve
  • Dr. V. Setty Pendakur: The Call to Serve
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A well-built career and the call to serve

A story about Dr. V. Setty Pendakur could be spent listing the numerous boards, foundations, and distinguished organizations he has been a part of. It could detail the long list of educational institutes that have had the honour of having him teach. While such a life could be celebrated for the résumé attached to the name, it would be an injustice to ignore the humble, honest, family-oriented and community-centred person Dr. Pendakur is.

Born in 1935, Dr. Pendakur grew up in a small market village in Karnataka, India. He began his post-secondary studies in Bangalore before joining the civil service in northeast India. Offered a UN Scholarship that brought him to the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1955, he obtained his Masters in Urban and Regional Planning followed by his PhD in Transportation Engineering and Public Policy from the University of Washington.

It's difficult to summarize the career of Dr. Pendakur, Professor Emeritus at UBC. He spent several years working for the Ministry of Transportation, both in Vancouver and Ottawa. He was elected to the City Council of Vancouver in 1972, the first South Asian to do so. He was appointed to the faculty of the School of Community and Regional Planning at UBC until his retirement in 1998. He is president of Pacific Policy and Planning Associates. He has worked as a consultant or advisor for nearly 45 years in more than 30 countries. And that only scratches the surface.

He can list the many buildings he's had a hand in constructing, the special guests he's had the pleasure of hosting and the policies he's helped develop but it is his family and seva, or selfless service, that Dr. Pendakur talks about at length. He attributes his work ethic, call to serve and family values to his parents; their selfless acts and inclusive attitude have never escaped
his memory.

“We're human beings. We do some things right and some things not so right and some things really wrong and we have to be able to recognize that we goofed up and say, I'm sorry, and move on and not repeat it again. And in the process, we have to be grateful to not only the opportunities but to the key people that were there for you when you really needed it.” And for Dr. Pendakur, he cannot emphasize enough the gratitude he has for his parents and his wife of 55 years, Rajinder.

You can hear the pride in his voice as he speaks to how “extraordinarily important my wife has been to support all of the crazy things that I have done in my life.” He recalls the early days of establishing himself when Rajinder's focus was on raising their children and how she
selflessly serves the hungry on the streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. “She doesn't want publicity; she doesn't want to talk about it. She says, I just want to do.”

The Pendakur's have two sons; their oldest, Ravi, a professor of public policy at the University of Ottawa and their youngest, Krishna, a professor of economics at Simon Fraser University. With a father like theirs, it would seem obvious they had quite the role model to look up to but Dr. Pendakur sees it otherwise. “They're my role models now,” he says with exuberance. “Believe me, they are doing much better than what I did when I was their ages. They're international scholars. And in addition to all that, they're nice kids.”

Dr. Pendakur hesitates when asked about his success. It's as though he's misunderstood thequestion or isn't sure how successful he has been in his career. Instead, he humbly tells a story of saving the Heritage Hall at Main Street and 15th followed by another about his 10-year tenure with the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of Greater Vancouver. “I do the service to the best of my ability,” he says. It defines his success much more than his distinguished career. “For me, the highlights are the fun parts,” he adds.

Picking one, two or even a few of Dr. Pendakur's achievements to shine a spotlight on seems too inadequate to do justice to his illustrious career. From politics to urban planning, Dr. Pendakur has spent his career developing and improving cities but serving and inspiring communities are the true achievements that make him such an accomplished individual.

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