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Boomers in Las Vegas are no stranger to philanthropy

Pandit Brijesh Raval, the priest at the Hindu Temple of Las Vegas, nods as parishioner Swadeep Nigam talks about volunteering and the college scholarship he has funded for a graduating Clark County high school student.

“It is a very good thing you do,” the priest said.

It’s lunchtime and Nigam, a 57-year-old Las Vegas Valley Water District financial analyst appointed to Nevada’s Equal Rights Commission by Gov. Brian Sandoval, lets Raval know that he and his wife will be cooking for an April temple function and asks him to let as many people as possible know about the scholarship.

“College is very expensive and the scholarship can help students and their parents,” he said.

Philanthropy, baby boomer style.

As Nigam and the rest of the boomer cohort approach or reach retirement, studies show the generation that wanted to change the world is still intent on leaving its mark.

According to research published last year by Merrill Lynch, boomers are expected to dedicate $8 trillion in money and volunteer hours to philanthropic causes over the next 20 years. By 2025, giving by retirees will account for half of all philanthropy.

What makes the philanthropic outlays of boomers different from other generations, according to experts, is they want to be more personally involved in the causes they care about.

Nigam’s passion is education.

“It has the most to do with changing lives,” he said. “Without my getting a scholarship, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wanted to give back and see that deserving young people get some help.”

After he turned 50, Nigam, who helped put his two children throughcollege, earmarked $25,000 of his investment savings for 10 years worth of scholarships carrying the name of his father. His dad was a college professor in India as well as a visiting professor at the business school at UNLV.

“I saw it as a way to honor my father, who so believed in education, and to help young people,” he said.

The one-time $2,500 scholarship, awarded annually to a new student through the Nevada Policy Research Institute, is called the Professor R.S. Nigam & NPRI Freedom Scholarship. Nigam believes in the tenets of NPRI, a nonprofit think tank promoting policy ideas consistent with the principles of limited government, individual liberty and free markets.

It was a scholarship to Wright State University in Ohio, Nigam said, that allowed him to him earn master’s degrees in economic and finance — degrees that helped make possible his $115,000 a year water district position.

“I just feel I must give back and I want to make sure the money I contribute is used wisely,” he said. “I found you don’t have to be wealthy to give back.”

Nigam also financially aids Wright State students and contributes to UNLV.

Applications for the $2,500 scholarship he funds are open to all graduating seniors in Clark County planning to attend college in the fall.

Applicants must have a grade point average of at least 3.2 and complete the application, which includes a two-page essay on whether a proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage to $13 an hour helps or hurts Nevada’s youth.

To be eligible, a student’s parents must have earned less than $125,000 income in 2016, and the student must plan to attend a four-year degree program in business, economics, political science or public administration.

Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday and Tuesday in the Nevada section and Monday in the Health section. Contact him at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter.

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