2007 valedictorian recounts high school, quirky experiences

February 5, 2015 — by Spring Ma

Class of 2007 alumnus Varun Sivaram remembers receiving the classic yellow call-slip in the middle of an AP Spanish presentation in March of his senior year.

Class of 2007 alumnus Varun Sivaram remembers receiving the classic yellow call-slip in the middle of an AP Spanish presentation in March of his senior year. He recalls the dreadful pit in his stomach as he left for the principal’s office, wondering if his science teacher had finally figured out his strategy of taking bathroom breaks in AP Physics to hang out.

When Sivaram faced then-principal Jeff Anderson, however, Anderson looked upon him with not a trace of disappointment or anger, but rather, pride.

Anderson then presented Sivaram with the distinction and honor of being the Class of 2007’s valedictorian, with a 4.74 GPA.

“It was a total surprise,” Sivaram said. “When I transferred from Harker to Saratoga [freshman year], I was a little cocky — I took Calculus BC as a sophomore and was pretty good at Spanish. But that feeling evaporated, because in every class I took, there was always someone wittier in essays or more instinctive with titrations.”

During his four years at Saratoga High, Sivaram dedicated himself to much more than just academics. In just his senior year, he constantly found himself spending weekends at speech and debate tournaments, in addition to serving as an ASB School Board and School Site Council representative.

“I learned a lot goes into our education behind the scenes, and was humbled by the dedication that I saw in the process,” Sivaram said. “Student government gave me a sense of ownership and community that [made me a] better citizen.

In hindsight, Sivaram said his extracurriculars left him with both a strong foundation to build his career upon and his fondest memories of high school.

Several events in high school left a lasting impression on Sivaram. When he went on the Spanish department’s Mexico trip, Sivaram fell sick with an appendicitis. He will never forget when Spanish teacher Arnaldo Rodriguex rushed him to a nearby hospital, ultimately “saving his life” and “preventing [his] exploding appendix.”

He also recalls singing a “downright awful” performance at Saratoga Idol, where his friends “saved the day by convincing everyone to sway their cellphones and distract from [his] awful vocals.”

After graduation, Sivaram attended Stanford University. For Sivaram, college was eye-opening and unexpected, a time of adventure and exploration.

Sivaram felt prepared for the challenging academic and social environment of Stanford. He said Saratoga High taught him to “participate, maintain great relationships with instructors and do the homework, even if it [did not] count for much in college.”

After graduating from Stanford in 2011 with a Bachelors in Engineering Physics and International Relations, Sivaram travelled across the globe to Oxford University. He continued to study physics on a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, offered to only 32 American scholars out of 1,500 applicants.

While studying to achieve a Ph.D in Condensed Matter Physics at Oxford, Sivaram took advantage of studying abroad to immerse himself in England’s culture. In his downtime, Sivaram studied in royal dressing rooms adorned with architectural “spires and turrets” that were almost over 700 years old and “gulped pints” in pubs that famous writers J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S Lewis once loved.

Having obtained his PhD., Sivaram moved back to California after Oxford and served as the senior energy adviser for the Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaragosa. Sivaram worked to promote solar panels and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions throughout LA.

Shortly after his stint with the mayor, Sivaram began working for Mckinsey and Co. in San Francisco. During his term, he helped a big power company “think through how it could make, not lose, money when customers switched from normal power service to solar panels” and also worked with one of the biggest banks in the world to set aside a “rainy day fund” in case of a financial recession.

Despite his frequent travels, Sivaram has always made time for family, especially his sisters: sophomore Saya Sivaram and Class of 2010 alumna Uttara Sivaram. The siblings have attended three straight Stanford football games, and always make sure to watch the new Star Trek movies together.

Toward the end of February, he is planning on moving to Washington, D.C, to become a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and continue pursuing his passion for foreign policy. Despite having to move across the country, Sivaram has already booked each of his siblings tickets to visit, although “they don’t know it yet.”

His youngest sister Saya said her brother has “attained a level of maturity and confidence that he did not used to have,” but also remained the same charismatic, caring brother and son.

“He still has a terrible sense of humor, watches ‘Gilmore Girls’ with me, sleeps too much and loves pepperoni pizza,” Saya said. “[Varun] has always encouraged me to do things that I love and to do them to the absolute best of my ability.”

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