In 1941, Spiridon “Dan” Suciu arrived on the Purdue campus from Michigan to enlist in the U.S. Navy V-12 college training program. Little did he know that he would earn three degrees from the school, and that five children and five grandchildren would continue his legacy by earning Purdue degrees.
This year, Dan Suciu’s legacy takes on a new shape. Dan (BSME ’44, MSME ’49, PhD ’51) and his son Jim (BSME ’82) have combined efforts to create the Dan Suciu Student Support Fund, earmarking $50,000 for graduate students enrolled in the School of Mechanical Engineering, currently ranked the No. 8 graduate program in the nation by the U.S. News & World Report. Father and son also have committed $200,000 to name a test cell as part of the recent Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories expansion.
“I greatly appreciated the financial help that I received as a graduate student, and I had always planned to contribute to a fund that would provide similar help to future graduate students,” says Dan, a World War II veteran and retired U.S. naval officer. He completed his advanced Purdue degrees with the help of the GI Bill and fellowships.
Finding the right fit
Dan was in talks with Purdue about ways to aid students when he and Jim learned of an additional opportunity as part of the expanding Zucrow Laboratories, whose dedication was then six months away. As Jim tells it: “My brothers, sisters, and I had been thinking how nice it would be to have some permanent recognition of our dad and mom around the Purdue campus since we have had such a long and deep history there as a family.
“The gift’s connection to my dad’s expertise, along with the relatively short timing — my dad was already 95 years old — made it a very nice fit.”
Appealing to both father and son was the creativity and flexibility of the gift process. “The Purdue team allowed us to do something really cool for our family and for the University. These are not simple decisions or one-size solutions.”
“The generosity stemming from the gift provided by the Suciu family is one that honors Dan’s legacy of impact in aviation research,” says Anil Bajaj, the William E. and Florence E. Perry Head of Mechanical Engineering and Alpha P. Jamison Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “And given that Dan was one of the very first to earn a PhD in mechanical engineering at Purdue, the Suciu Graduate Student Support Endowment will play a critical role in shaping the lives of those who seek to follow in his footsteps.”
Both Dan and Jim put their mechanical engineering degrees to work at General Electric. Dan worked at GE for 37 years, retiring as general manager of Neutron Devices. Throughout his career, he worked extensively with gas turbines; aeronautics; energy technology; and nuclear weapon design, development and manufacturing.
“The fact that there was not yet a test cell at Zucrow devoted to research on aircraft gas turbines appealed to me, and when Jim offered to share in the cost, that made it possible,” Dan says of their decision to fund and dedicate this particular test cell in the Suciu name.
Jim retired from GE after 35 years, having served as president of global sales and marketing for GE Energy as well as a vice president and corporate officer. “Our Purdue degrees led to getting great jobs at a great company,” Jim says.
“Purdue’s reputation made it easy for me to obtain several job offers,” says Dan, adding that his children’s and grandchildren’s association with Purdue has served them well and led to successful careers with major companies such as GE, Google X, Motorola/Nokia, IBM, Lockheed-Martin, Cisco and Bain. “Consequently, I have a high regard for the quality of education and employment opportunities that Purdue provides.”
A special place for the Suciu family
The Suciu-Purdue relationship is a special one, Jim says, and especially strong considering that all 11 Suciu students came to Purdue from out of state. Now the Suciu family name has a permanent home befitting all of those years spent on campus.
“All of us want to support things that were influential on our lives so that they continue to be available to others,” Jim says of his family’s gift. He adds that before retiring, his main support was through the Purdue Alumni Association and John Purdue Club. “As my own son was getting ready to graduate and I was getting ready to retire, the idea of a larger, more substantial gift became more the focus.”
Both Dan and Jim are past recipients of the Outstanding Mechanical Engineering Award, in 2016 and 2013, respectively. Dan and his wife, Jean, who met at an away Purdue-Notre Dame football game when they were seated next to each other, have been married 68 years. In addition to their five children, they have 14 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Given family history, it won’t be surprising to see another generation of Suciu students setting foot on the Purdue campus.
Banner Photo Caption
Dan and Jim Suciu
Investments in Infrastructure
Expansions and improvements to teaching and learning spaces, laboratories, offices
Elevating Student Experience
Scholarships, student opportunities, diversity programs, student clubs
Dedicated to the Cause
Fundraising, event hosting, activity planning, advisory boards, networking with alumni
Laboratory infrastructure and equipment, project startup funds, graduate student support
Administrative funds, student travel and networking, unexpected opportunities
Rewarding, retaining, recruiting faculty and promoting diversity in engineering