Padma Bhushan winner Dr. Khem Singh Gill
A Humble and Remarkable Life
Dr. Khem Singh Gill was born on September 1, 1930in Kaleke, a small village located in the Moga district of Punjab, India. Dr. Gill described his upbringing and family life as a simple one, with parents who worked as farmers in a rural village. Dr. Khem Singh Gill was the first member of his family to acquire a higher level of education; he went on to obtain multiple degrees from Indian and American universities. Dr. Gill faced many obstacles while he tried to complete his schooling, as he noted that there was only one primary school in his village, and he had to travel far from his home to finish his schooling. Starting from the 5th grade, Dr. Gill started living on his own in a hostel when he attended school located outside of his district. Dr. Gill mentioned it was difficult to be away from his family and that his mother was hesitant to let him live on his own at such a young age, but because of the lack of schools in his area, he was obligated to attend middle school elsewhere. Dr. Gill’s time away from his village and family paid off, as he excelled as a student, consistently receiving awards and topping his class. Dr. Gill noted an interesting encounter he had with one of his professors regarding his university training. Dr. Gill contemplated becoming an engineer, but it was his headmaster who showed him that his passion was in agriculture. His headmaster provided him with 10 rupees that would afford him a ticket to Amritsar, where he would then gain admission to Punjab Agriculture College (which is now known as Punjab Agriculture University). Dr. Gill obtained his bachelor of science degree and a master’s degree in genetics and plant breeding. After receiving his master’s degree, he went on to work in the university’s research department. It was in 1963 when Dr. Khem Singh Gill was selected by the university to pursue his PHD at the University of California. Gill moved to California for three years, where he studied and worked on his PHD. After finishing his PHD, he returned to India, despite his American colleagues and professors requesting him to stay with the University. Dr. Gill was appointed to Head Professor at Punjab Agriculture University, which Gill noted was a large leap in the academic profession. Dr. Gill’s accomplishments did not end there, but simply continued at an impressive scale and rate. Dr. Gill went on to become the vice-chancellor of the university, a highly coveted position in the academic world. Sant Teja Singh is an individual who has heavily inspired a lot of the work Dr. Gill has done throughout his lengthy career. Sant Teja Singh was a highly regarded academic and scholar, who obtained his master’s degree from Harvard University. Sant Teja Singh lived a selfless life, dedicating his life to helping those less fortunate. This level of selflessness and devotion to helping others was exactly what inspired and enlightened Dr. Khem Singh Gill when he had the privilege of having Sant Teja Singh speak at his graduation ceremony in 1949. Observing and hearing Sant Teja Singh deliver an inspirational lecture to his graduating class, struck a cord with Dr. Gill, and he believes it was a turning point in his life when he realized his potential to further himself academically and spiritually. The impact Sant Teja Singh has had on Dr. Gill is profound and indescribable. He speaks of Sant Teja Singh with such high regard and respect; it is no wonder that he was thrilled when learning about the development of a biography on Sant Teja Singh’s life. Dr. Gill was presented with the opportunity to write an English version of Sant Teja Singh’s biography, titled ‘The Life of a Gurmukh’, published by the Khalsa Diwan Society. The lengthy book details Sant Teja Singh’s life trajectory, including his spiritual path, his academic inclinations, and his devotion to helping others. Dr. Gill wrote this book with great honor, and as a way to further spread the message of Sant Teja Singh’s deeply important legacy. Dr. Gill has not only continued Sant Teja Singh’s legacy through writing his biography, but also through his work as the vice-president of the Kaligidhar Trust, a foundation formed by Sant Teja Singh that provides access to education for young people in rural areas.