Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber honored Barefoot College Founder Sanjit “Bunker” Roy with a doctor of laws degree yesterday, Tuesday June 6th.

“His activism and ingenuity have transformed some of India’s poorest communities, bringing them not only innovation and prosperity, but security, empowerment, self-sufficiency and hope,” University orator, Sheryl WuDunn, said during the ceremony.

In addition to Roy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, basketball star, writer and social activist was given an honorary doctorate in humanities. Jabbar, born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr., is the National Basketball Association’s all-time leading scorer and a six-time NBA champion. In 2016, Abdul-Jabbar was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.


It is an honor for Barefoot College to be recognized for its unique role in education through the bestowal of this degree from Princeton University. We have different students and different approaches to education as a path to empowerment that together creates a unique partnership for a better world.


Roy, an Indian social activist and educator, founded the Barefoot College in 1972. Inspired by Gandhi and galvanized to respond to the 1967 famine in India, Roy moved from his home suburb in Rajasthan to help rural villagers. Over the past 40 years, some 3 million Indians have developed skills in teaching, medicine, engineering, sustainable energy and crafts through Barefoot College programs.

On dirt floors in rural villages, he trained “barefoot professionals” to serve their villages as doctors and teachers, as engineers and architects, with a curriculum that targeted necessities like clean water, power and health care, WuDunn said of Roy.

Roy has received numerous honors, including the 2004 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and the 2005 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. In 2010, he was selected one of Time magazine’s most influential people in the world.

Barefoot College now operates in more than 80 countries and on four continents, becoming one of the largest NGOs in the world. The values that Roy founded the College on remain in practice in regional centers now starting in Africa, Latin America and the Pacific Islands.

Barefoot CEO Meagan Fallone, who attended the ceremony with Roy, said the degree validates the unique role Barefoot College plays in fulfilment of the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Our commitment to sustainability and the thought leadership that is the foundation for all we do is so badly needed at this time in history to acheive a just and fair world. As Barefoot College grows and empowers a new generation of leaders, we want to provide a plan for impact that comes from the ground up where new solutions are born every day.


Three others were also honored including Juliet Villarreal García, a pioneer in higher education; Pamela Matson, an academic leader in environmental sciences; Jeremiah Ostriker, a Princeton astrophysicist who served the University in a range of roles.

Now you can contribute monthly to our Barefoot College Endowment Fund in honor of Bunker Roy and his life’s work.