Many LeBow students have come to know Interim Dean Vibhas Madan, PhD, since he first came to Drexel in 1989 after completing his doctorate in economics at Michigan State University. An expert on international trade theory with an emphasis on trade policy and multinational firms, he rose through the ranks to become professor of economics, director of the School of Economics, and senior associate dean for academic programs before being appointed Interim Dean in November 2019.
Outside of his academic roles and research, here are 10 things you might not know about LeBow’s top leader:
1. He loves music and plays guitar.
Madan started playing guitar during his youth in India, took a few lessons and later wrote songs and played casually with friends during college in New Delhi. He now owns several guitars, including a Yamaha classical guitar that his father bought for him in Japan in 1981. “I never go long without playing, and I’ve been playing a lot more recently during quarantine,” he says.
2. There’s a unique meaning behind his name.
Music is also central to the meaning behind his first name. The name Vibhas means “the early morning rays of the sun,” and it is also associated with a raga in Indian classical music. “A lot of these ragas have names based on the appropriate time or season in which to sing them,” Madan explains. “There’s one called ‘rag vibhas,’ and my parents named me not because of what the word meant, but because of the music. I’ve never met or known another person with my name.”
3. He loves spicy food and makes his own hot sauces.
“In India, people eat a lot of hot stuff, but even by those standards, I’m crazy about it. I’ve been growing hot peppers since the early ‘90s, and some years, I grow as many as 15 to 20 varieties.”
4. His favorite author outside of economics and business is Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
“‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ is one of my favorite books of all time.”
5. He used to work at a zoo.
As a member of the World Wildlife Fund growing up in New Delhi, he used to work on weekends as an Honorary Zoo Warden at the Delhi Zoo. “My assignment was to take care of the orangutans, particularly a baby called Toto,” he says.
6. He keeps a list of bird species he’s seen throughout his life and can identify many by their call.
His interest in birdwatching also dates back to his youth in India. “I grew up near this beautiful, forested area in India, and we used to go for hikes there as kids,” he says. “My mom was an avid birdwatcher, and I got interested in it, and in the environment, because of her.”
7. He’s been an active athlete since high school.
Madan’s high school athletic career included tennis, table tennis, cricket and track and field – he even held the javelin throw record at his high school for a long time. “My mom and dad were very worried about too much sports and no studies,” he says. “I ended up focusing on tennis and played for my college tennis team as an undergraduate in Delhi, and I still play USTA tennis matches.” In recent years, he’s added golf to his athletic pursuits and has had two hole-in-ones!
8. From Bob Dylan to Beethoven – his favorite music:
Madan turns to music when in need of inspiration. “I love all kinds of music, but there’s two that I return to regularly,” he says. “First, I’m one of the biggest Bob Dylan fans anywhere. I love the imagery, poetry and rhythms of his songs. Also, when I’m in need of some mental rejuvenation, one of my favorite pieces of music is Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony — that’s something I can listen to forever.”
9. Something new he tried or learned during quarantine:
“I wrote a few new songs: one based on a Bob Dylan song that was featured on LeBow’s graduation website, and another one about George Floyd.”
10. Where he’d like to go when travel opens up again:
“India – I go there every year to visit my family and friends. If I had to pick someplace new, I’d say South America – there’s something about the mountains there.”