Stanford community reacts to alumn Rishi Sunak becoming UK Prime Minister

Rishi Sunak made history Monday as the first person of color and first Indian-born person to be named prime minister in Great Britain. 

The announcement came after the former Prime Minister Liz Truss quit last week, ending 45 tumultuous days in office. 

Sunak's only remaining rival, Penny Mordaunt, conceded and withdrew after failing to reach the nomination threshold of 100 Conservative lawmakers needed to stay in the race. Sunak will now be asked by King Charles III to form a government and becomes the prime minister in a handover of power from Truss on Tuesday.

"It is the greatest privilege of my life to be able to serve the party I love and give back to the country I owe so much to," said Sunak, "We now need stability and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together.

Sunak is a 2006 graduate of Stanford's Graduate School of Business. On Monday, the dean of the school sent an email to students celebrating the moment.

"That's definitely a proud moment. It feels good. It feels good for the students here that here at Stanford you can achieve something as high as Rishi Sunak," said Rishabh Aggarwal, a Stanford Graduate School of Business student.

Some hope it will usher in a new era of social progress on racial issues in Great Britain.

"It is a new start. It is a new precedent that your color doesn't matter," said Amit Bharti, a Stanford School of Business MS Program participant.

"It makes a big statement of how there's been a transition with an understanding of race, ethnicity inside the UK," said Shubhi Jain, a grad student in the business school.

Stanford is also where Sunak met his wife Akshata Murthy, a billionaire heiress who was a fellow student and also received an MBA.

"I think it's great to see two accomplished people supporting each other on their own individual paths but coming together as a collective to make a big impact on the world," said Pallavi Hukerikar, a business student in the graduate program.

"It's very inspiring coming from a country like India and seeing what people are doing...leading companies in Silicon Valley or in government UK," said Pranav Jain, a Stanford Graduate School of Business student.

The news of the new world leader came right as the Indian community worldwide celebrates Diwali, the festival of lights. 

At the Hindu Temple in Sunnyvale, the priest says the news was a point of pride, hope and light.

"That's happy news to us. Also, it's a gift of Diwali to him. Normally Indians celebrate by giving gifts to family and friends so Sunak got a big gift on this time," said Raghav Prasad, priest at the Hindu Temple of Sunnyvale, "We wish him the best." 

The Dean of Stanford's Graduate School of Business Jonathan Levin said Sunak had recently told him Stanford was a unique place that raised his ambitions. 

"Rishi acted on his dream by going into public service. His ethos of civic-mindedness, and a desire to use his skills to advance the greater good, will serve him well as he prepares to lead Britain. On behalf of Stanford and the GSB, I wish him all the best," said Levin in the statement.

The challenges facing the U.K.’s third prime minister this year are enormous: He must try to shore up an economy sliding toward recession and reeling after his predecessor’s brief, disastrous experiment in libertarian economics, while also attempting to unite a demoralized and divided party that trails far behind the opposition in opinion polls.

Victory is vindication for Sunak, who lost out to Truss in the Conservative election to replace former Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the summer when party members chose her tax-cutting boosterism over his warnings that inflation must be tamed.

He now faces the huge challenge of calming markets and trying to tame inflation at a time of weakened government finances, a worsening economic outlook and a wave of strikes. 

Sunak was cheered wildly by Conservative lawmakers during a packed private meeting in Parliament minutes after he won the contest on Monday.

Former Cabinet minister Chris Grayling said Sunak had urged the party "to unite and fix the problems the country faces" and had got "a rapturous reception."

But Sunak still faces resentment from supporters of Johnson for quitting the government in July, a move that helped topple the then-leader. His background as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and his wife’s vast wealth — she is the daughter of an Indian billionaire — also fuel a sense he is out of touch with the struggles of ordinary people.

Associated Press writer Danica Kirka contributed to this story.