Illustration of Tandean Rustandy
Illustration by Greg Betza

The Book of Booth: Tandean Rustandy

The Indonesian entrepreneur shares memories of meeting Gary Becker on his first day at Booth, the values that guide him, and why he’s committed to social innovation.

With a $20 million gift to Booth in 2017, Tandean Rustandy, ’07 (AXP-6), committed his support to expanded research and programming in social innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Previously known as the Social Enterprise Initiative, the newly named Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation will serve as Booth’s hub for students, alumni, and faculty tackling complex social and environmental problems. 

Rustandy founded Jakarta, Indonesia-based PT Arwana Citramulia Tbk, one of the best-performing ceramic tile manufacturing companies in the world. Winner of Booth’s Distinguished Alumni Entrepreneurial Award in 2011, he is a member of the Council on Chicago Booth and Global Advisory Board Asia cabinet.

Why did you make the gift to the Rustandy Center? 

With the center, we can attract the best and brightest minds—people capable of winning Nobel Prizes—to bring creative and innovative thinking and improve the world. 

Why does education matter so much to you?

I have a full heart to support education. I come from a very humble family, from a town where the education was not very good. I was extremely lucky to go to the University of Chicago. Education will never expire. I’m hoping to build something for Indonesians and people from Asia and emerging countries, and to make the world better, to show that life isn’t just about making money; it’s about giving back and improving education, so our emerging country can become a developed country.

Why is supporting social sector innovation so important to you? 

I’m a Christian. You can be the salt and be the light. You have to give in order to tithe. Indonesia has instability. Many of the people are poor. They don’t have a house. They don’t have a proper job. It is my calling to serve my community to create jobs, to create consistent incomes, so people can afford a house, so they can start a happy family. 

Why did you choose to pursue your Executive MBA at Booth? 

It was an honor to go to Booth. Before I enrolled, I had already started my business. It was successful, but a lot of decisions I made were based on a gut feeling. It was not data oriented. I learned at Booth that we need to have the data and research. Since I graduated, the company has grown many, many times. It’s through data. Not only by feeling, but by feeling backed up by data. 

Do you have a standout memory of Booth? 

When I came to Booth, I was already successful. But my first day at Booth, during orientation at Gleacher Center, I was so nervous that I was shaking. I thought, “I’m standing here, starting at the University of Chicago, a world-renowned economic school, a world-renowned finance school.” And professor Gary Becker gave a talk. I had read a couple of his books, and there he was, standing in front of me. I went down to the bookshop to buy his book, Human Capital. I had a chance to shake his hand, and I asked him to sign the book. He is one of my idols. 

What are your hopes for the Rustandy Center?

It might not be easy for people in Indonesia to understand why I am giving to a US school instead of helping my fellow Indonesians directly. But I myself, I will not live forever. I believe the University of Chicago will last forever. And with the support of the university, the center will last forever. Perhaps, in the short run, the center is going to continue building the fundamentals. In the long run, I believe it will be something special. It will always be ahead of the curve, to serve the community, not only in the United States but all over the world.

—By Sam Jemielity