March 7, 2020
Kuppuswami Srinivasan, also known as “Ken” by his American friends and “Bali” by his family in India, died on Saturday, March 7 from complications after hip surgery. Ken was one of 13 children born to R.S. Kuppuswami Iyengar, an executive for the British Railway, and K. Rukmini, a homemaker, in Madras (now Chennai), India. At the age of 7, he joined his older brother, Vijay, at the Rishi Valley boarding school in Andhra Pradesh to begin his formal education. All of his younger brothers would soon follow and the school became a family tradition. On school holidays, their father often took Ken and his four brothers along with him as he inspected rail station operations. In their own designated railcar, the boys and father enjoyed long excursions throughout India, learning about the people, languages, traditions and geography of the diverse subcontinent. Thus began Ken’s lifelong love of travel and adventure. Upon graduation from Rishi Valley, Ken married and went on to study civil engineering in Chennai, after which he worked for the Indian government. When his father died suddenly of a stroke, Vijay was away at college and so it fell to Ken to take on the role of family leader, providing financial support and guidance to his younger siblings. He was torn because he wanted to fulfill his family responsibilities but also yearned to advance his education by studying in the U.S., so he devised a plan to do both. Money was tight and the dollar-to-rupee exchange rate was astronomical, so he found the least costly U.S. school that offered a master’s in engineering: Utah State University. Reluctantly, he sold his prized motorcycle to help fund the trip. Even that only got him passage aboard a cargo ship—in steerage—to New York Harbor. From there, he had to take a bus to Utah. After a long, miserable trip, he got his first real taste of life outside of India – in Mormon country. The culture shock overwhelmed him. The people he met in Utah didn’t understand when he said he was Indian. They continually asked him what tribe he was from and he’d have to explain he was from India—the country. As a born vegetarian, he also had difficulty finding foods he was accustomed to and often resorted to making cream of wheat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He also smoked, drank and liked coffee, habits the Mormons definitely frowned upon. So for a time, he had to sneak out of his apartment and away from his landlord in order to indulge. He also had to work to continue to pay his way through college. He was too proud to let his classmates see him doing menial labor, so he found work in places hidden from public view. One of his jobs was to re-set the pins in a bowling alley from behind a wall. He was in a whole new world, which was difficult to adjust to, but he had to succeed. His family in India, which now included a young daughter with his first wife, was depending on him for financial support. After he earned his master’s degree, he was quickly offered jobs by American engineering firms that wanted to expand their business in Asia. He found his niche with water treatment companies and, as a result, he spent the next 10 years essentially living out of a suitcase, opening, certifying and managing water treatment facilities in Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Japan, Australia and the Philippines. After all that travel, he eventually decided he wanted to settle down and established his home base with Dorr Oliver Corp. in New York City. It was there that he met Clementine Koomen, also known as Tina, who was a bookkeeper at the company. Originally from The Netherlands, Tina shared his experience of coming to America in search of education and adventure and the two became a couple after his divorce from his first marriage. Tina and Ken were extremely happy together for the next 26 years. They moved from Fort Lee to New Cannan, Connecticut, and both commuted into Manhattan where Ken continued to work for Dorr Oliver and Tina worked for a book publisher. Then tragedy struck Ken’s extended family. His first cousin’s husband, who had just started a small science and engineering firm was killed in a car accident. Ken and Tina helped the family through the struggle. When it became clear that his cousin did not want to manage the company, Ken and Tina bought it from her and took over, setting up shop in Greenbelt, MD. At the time, it was an extremely small government contracting business called Research and Data Systems that did mathematical analysis of satellite imagery. Ken and Tina moved from Connecticut to Maryland, investing themselves fully in the business and creating a government contracting powerhouse with millions in sales. They grew the business with the help of about 80 highly skilled scientists and engineers who specialized in satellite data analysis, supporting the work of NASA, NOAA and classified government programs. When he first took over RDC, as the company was later named, Ken knew nothing about space, satellites or the information technology used in the analysis his company provided. But he learned quickly and led the company to great success as a U.S. government contractor. In fact, the data that RDC provided to NASA and NOAA helped scientists there to identify the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. It was in the midst of this success that his beloved Tina was diagnosed with breast cancer and died shortly thereafter. Lost, alone and grieving, Ken went back to India to be with his family and contemplate next steps. Upon his return, he focused solely on building RDC’s sales and diversifying its business to include high-end IT. He was particularly interested in partnerships with large defense and aerospace companies. It was at this point he met his future wife, Regina, who was a VP at Lockheed Martin. They married on April 29, 2000 and Ken embarked on yet another journey of renewal. In 2002, Ken felt the time was ripe to sell RDC and took an attractive offer from Decision Systems Technologies, Inc., a larger government contractor. With Regina continuing to work, Ken decided to explore the world of real estate and became an agent with Long & Foster Realty in Potomac. Then, in 2004, Ken and Regina were blessed with a child. Once again, Ken began a new adventure: fatherhood. While he had a daughter with his first wife in India, his educational pursuits, work and travel prevented him from being fully engaged in her upbringing. Now that he was freed from the pressures of running his company, he was thrilled with the opportunity to provide love and guidance to his new son. Together, the Vasan family enjoyed a quiet life in Potomac for more than a decade. Then, as they contemplated full retirement, they decided to build a house in Annapolis, Regina’s hometown. In 2018, they moved into their new home on the Severn River. Ken considered the move yet another new adventure in his long and vibrant life and spent his final days enjoying the glory of nature along the banks of the river. K.S. Vasan is survived by his wife of 20 years, Regina Brady Vasan, and their son, Kendrick Brady Vasan, of Annapolis, MD; a daughter from his first marriage, Mala Vasudevan of Reston, VA and her husband, Vasu; four sisters: Vaidehi Rajagopalan of Bangalore, Ananda Rajagopalan and Vasantha Parthasarathy of Chennai, and Nirmala Sundararajan of Kancheepuram, Tamilnadu. He is also survived by three grandchildren: Aanand Vasudevan of Reston, VA; Pavithra Vasudevan of Raleigh, N.C.; and Raksha Vasudevan of Austin, TX; and four great-grandchildren. A celebration of Ken’s life will be held on Saturday, March 14 at Lasting Tributes, 814 Bestgate Road, Annapolis, MD. Visitation and viewing will begin at 1 p.m. and services will follow at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Hospice of the Chesapeake (90 Ritchie Highway, Pasadena, MD 21122), which provided extraordinarily kind and compassionate care in Ken’s final hours.
Kuppuswami Srinivasan, also known as “Ken” by his American friends and “Bali” by his family in India, died on Saturday, March 7 from complications after hip surgery. Ken was one of 13 children born to R.S. Kuppuswami... View Obituary & Service Information
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