Rajvanshi is the first Indian to receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest honour the University of Florida can bestow on persons who have graduated from the university and have excelled in their chosen field.
A mechanical engineering graduate of IIT Kanpur, Rajvanshi earned his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 1979. He joined its faculty for two years before returning to India in 1981 to run his own rural non-governmental organisation, Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), at Phaltan in Maharashtra.
The award was presented to Rajvanshi by Cammy Abernathy, dean of the University's College of Engineering, at the commencement convocation in Gainesville, Florida, in a glittering ceremony webcast alive via internet.
"NARI has done groundbreaking work in agriculture, renewable energy and sustainable development," the university said in a statement read out during the presentation.
"Rajvanshi has devoted the last 33 years to applying sophisticated science and technology to solve the problems faced by rural communities in areas of energy, water, pollution and income inequality," it said.
Rajvanshi's work on rural development has won him several prestigious national and international awards as well as induction into the Solar Hall of Fame. The awards include Jamnalal Bajaj Award and the Platinum Jubilee Award of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India, and the Energy Globe Award of Energy Globe Foundation -- a non-profit organisation in Austria.
In getting this award from the University of Florida, Rajvanshi joins a select band of distinguished personalities that include US senators and governors, presidents of universities, well-known scientists, and inventors, including Presidential Medal winners, among others.
Rajvanshi said he is humbled by the honour bestowed on him by his alma mater. "This award should provide inspiration to Indian students in the US to come back and help their country," Rajvanshi told IANS.
(K.S. Jayaraman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)