Internet Pioneer Credits Passion, Persistence and Purdue

Alums Paul and Florence Stahura make unrestricted gifts to the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering

When Paul Stahura (BSEE ’84, MSEE ’87) was a child building robots in his basement, he certainly did not picture that pursuit turning into a career in internet computing. Eventually, Paul’s fascination with hardware turned into an interest in software. In 2010, he co-founded Donuts Inc., which powers today’s largest group of domain names — the “not-com” variety, featuring domains ending in .restaurant, .movie, .business and hundreds of others.

Donuts launched in 2010, and by 2012, the company was ranked No. 14 in The Wall Street Journal’s Top 50 Startups. It was the newest startup on the list.

“Paul and Flo generously allow their gifts to be unrestricted to ECE, providing us the flexibility and resources needed to remain competitive in the long term.”
Venkataramanan “Ragu” Balakrishnan
(The Michael and Katherine Birck Head and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering)

A Place Like Home

It all started at Purdue. Paul earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at Purdue. It was here where he met a chemist from France — Florence (MS Chemistry ’92) — who would become his wife.

“I grew up at Purdue,” Paul says. “I became an adult during those years.” The couple has since moved to the Seattle area, but Purdue is never far from their minds — especially since two of their three children now attend the University.

Paul and Flo speak proudly of their Purdue students. “Sophie, our oldest, is the one who’s currently there. She is a sophomore, and she studies management,” he says. “And Anthony is a freshman this year. He wants to study electrical and computer engineering.”

Because Purdue has such a presence in their family, it is important for them to give back, and to do so in an unrestricted capacity. “We value education,” Paul says. “Flo’s parents and my parents instilled in us the value of an education. So far, education has been our predominant philanthropic theme.”

The School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) has benefited from several substantial gifts from the couple.

“Paul and Flo generously allow their gifts to be unrestricted to ECE, providing us the flexibility and resources needed to remain competitive in the long term,” says Professor Venkataramanan “Ragu” Balakrishnan, the Michael and Katherine Birck Head and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. ”I’m delighted their children are on campus, extending the family’s already-strong connection to the University.”

‘Find Your Passion And Go With It’

Through the years, Paul has learned one thing a person needs to be a great innovator: “You’ve got to follow your passion,” he says, “because if you don’t, you’ll never get through the bad times. It can’t be just a passion to make money. That won’t hack it. Find your passion and go with it.’

Times were not always easy. Flo and Paul recall the company he founded before Donuts Inc. — eNom. He sold eNom in 2006, but those early days were, as Florence calls it, “a blur.”

In 1997, Paul started eNom in his garage with some friends, where they worked nights. The couple remembers with laughter and groans the sign that Flo hung on the door for the guys who would come into the house to use the bathroom: “Don’t slam the door — the baby’s sleeping!”

To get through it, teamwork and trust were essential for the Stahuras. Flo says her career as a chemist provided security for the startup in their garage. She says, ”I had a job that I chose and I liked, and I felt like, ‘If that’s what Paul wants to do and he feels like it’s the right path, I’m with him.’ It’s a trust thing. We didn’t even have to think about it.”

“I hope research keeps growing because we have got to keep this machine going — inventing new things, discovering new things. I hope it continues to grow like it has since I left.”
Paul Stahura
(BSEE ’84, MSEE ’87)

An Accessible Education

Times weren’t always easy for Paul’s parents, either.

“My dad went to Purdue Calumet on the GI Bill,” he says. “It took him six years to get a two-year degree in industrial management at night — while he was working.”

Just as persistence and access to an education through the Purdue Calumet campus made the difference for his dad in northern Indiana, Paul says Purdue’s innovative creation of “Purdue NewU” will give others a similar chance — an opportunity to show their grit and achieve new goals they set for themselves.

“I think it’s a good thing for the whole University, because it will help educate a large number of people who can’t get to a campus, but who can go online — not only in the state of Indiana, but other places. That’s a good thing, just like Calumet was a good thing for my dad.”

In return for their gifts, the Stahuras’ highest hope is for healthy growth in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, in whatever shape that growth might take.

“I hope research keeps growing because we have got to keep this machine going — inventing new things, discovering new things. I hope it continues to grow like it has since I left,” Paul says. “My hope is that Purdue keeps growing, educating more engineers. The world needs them.”

To make a gift to the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, contact Andrea McIntyre, senior director of development, at 765-494-9945 or ajmcintyre@prf.org.