Named Headship Advances The School of Aeronautics And Astronautics

Gift enables multiple new initiatives, raises the profile of AAE

The School of Aeronautics and Astronautics is privileged to have a named headship, thanks to a gift from a successful alumnus. In December 2016, the Purdue University Board of Trustees ratified Tom Shih as the J. William Uhrig and Anastasia Vournas Head of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The gift from Bill Uhrig (BSAAE ’82) and his wife, Anastasia Vournas, will enable the school to engage in new, innovative educational and research initiatives.

“I am extremely honored by this endowed headship and excited about what it could do for the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics,” Shih says. “I want to express our deepest thanks to Bill and Anastasia for their generosity and for wanting to help our school move forward.”

Mung Chiang, Dean of Purdue’s College of Engineering, concurs. “The endowed headship gives a permanent financial boost to a school with world-class education and research in aerospace engineering,” Chiang says. “Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics is poised to reach new heights as a leader in autonomy, hypersonics, propulsion, aerospace systems, and space science and exploration.”

MITE Academic Boot Camp students examine the results of a simulation.

Flying Higher

Having a named headship sets the school apart from its peers in ensuring a future of continued excellence and impact by enabling initiatives to explore and innovate. The endowed funds also enable the school to grow and attract strong leaders far into the future.

“Our school is among the top in the country when it comes to education and research in aeronautics and astronautics,” Shih says, adding, “To remain at the top, we need to be constantly at the forefront of aerospace engineering that we are researching and teaching.”

As just one example, this contribution will enable the school to launch a distinguished lecture series on special topics, with a different focus area each year, to inspire our students to discover and to dream. The inaugural lecture series, to start this year, will focus on advanced propulsion. Series speakers will explore propulsion systems of the future that could enable humankind to travel to the far reaches of our solar system and to other stars. Students in AAE will have the opportunity to gain insights on spaceflight technology from leading experts around the world.

Two students examine propulsion machinery at Zucrow Labs.

Diversity, Accessibility

“We want to create a stimulating environment to nurture the next generation of aerospace engineers, visionaries and leaders. As engineers, our job is to make dreams into reality,” Shih says. To aid in this goal, funding from the Uhrig-Vournas gift will also support the schools ongoing efforts to strengthen diversity in all of its forms.

Also, building on the school’s strong online master’s program, the headship gift will fund initiatives to develop online offerings for undergraduates to enhance accessibility. “Purdue is a global university,” Shih says. “The school wants to enable our faculty to continuously develop new and innovative ways to educate and nurture our students, both on campus and online.”

The gift that Bill Uhrig and Anastasia Vournas have made will have a far-reaching impact on the school. “We are working to create a collaborative and nurturing environment,” Shih says, “and we are charting a course to make Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics a most exciting and dynamic place to learn, grow, discover, and make dreams into reality.”

“The endowed headship gives a permanent financial boost to a school with world-class education and research in aerospace engineering. Purdues School of Aeronautics and Astronautics is poised to reach new heights as a leader in autonomy, hypersonics, propulsion, aerospace systems, and space science and exploration.”
Mung Chiang
(The John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering)

To support the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, contact Rita Baines, senior director of development, at 765-494-9124 or rlbaines@prf.org.