Profile: Ashanthi Pereira Mathai ’95

A nonprofit founded by Ashanthi Pereira Mathai ’95, left, has provided prescription eyeglasses to 35,000 children and adults.
A nonprofit founded by Ashanthi Pereira Mathai ’95, left, has provided prescription eyeglasses to 35,000 children and adults.
Courtesy SOMS (Mathai)

Ashanthi Pereira Mathai ’95 grew up in Sri Lanka, but left the country in 1991 to attend Princeton after war shut down her country’s universities. In 2011, Mathai founded a nonprofit in Sri Lanka that provides free eyeglasses to those who can’t afford them. The nonprofit, So Others May See, has provided vision screenings to 1 million schoolchildren and given prescription eyeglasses to 35,000 children and adults.

“It touches me how something so small, $6 for a pair of eyeglasses — the cost of a sandwich, less than the cost of a movie ticket — can mean so much to someone and make a big difference in quality of life,” says Mathai, who has worn eyeglasses since she was 8. Most Sri Lankans, who live on about $3.30 a day, cannot afford the cost. So Others May See obtains low-cost eyeglasses through a local company.

Mathai majored in chemical engineering at Princeton and worked in the health-care industry after earning both a master’s in chemical engineering and an MBA from Stanford. In 2009, her husband, an economist, was sent to Sri Lanka by the International Monetary Fund. After a representative of the Lions Club asked her for help recycling glasses, Mathai realized she could do more. She located low-cost eyeglasses and worked with the Ministry of Health to set up screening clinics.

Mathai and her family now live in Maryland, but she remains executive director of So Others May See, which she runs through email and conference calls. The organization plans to offer discounted rates on eyeglasses for those who can afford some payment, which will help fund free eyeglasses for the most needy.

RÉSUMÉ: Founder of So Others May See, which gives eyeglasses to Sri Lankans. Stanford MBA. Chemical engineering major.