Late last week, as Congress prepared to vote on the bailout package, Mr. Paulson gathered his top aides in his office to discuss how to get the program up and running for the next administration to take over.
Mr. Kashkari said that when Mr. Paulson told the aides, “I want Neel to run this,” he was honored but not surprised, given their close working relationship.
His reply was simple, he recalled: “I said ‘O.K.’ ”
Mr. Kashkari, who grew up near Akron, Ohio, is a first-generation Indian-American. His parents had grown up in poverty in the Kashmir region of India before becoming an engineer and a doctor and coming to the United States.
Mr. Kashkari’s older sister, Meera Kashkari Kelley, said in an interview that the experiences of their parents shaped their childhoods.
“They ingrained in us the perspective that our origins were relatively poor,” she said. “I think that gave us a great appreciation for the opportunities that people have in this country.”
Mr. Kashkari stood out in his family. While everyone else leaned liberal, his sister said, he gravitated toward free-market Republican views.
As a high school student at the Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio, Mr. Kashkari excelled in math and was chosen by his classmates to be the graduation speaker.
After high school, Mr. Kashkari initially opted for an engineering career, earning an undergraduate and master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also met his wife, Minal, a mechanical engineer who works on NASA projects, on campus.
Mr. Kashkari worked for several years as a satellite engineer for TRW before earning an M.B.A. from the Wharton School.
“Neel was one of the strongest students in my class,” said Anjani Jain, the vice dean and director of the graduate division. “I remember him fondly as a gentle but persuasive student. He got a lot done.”