When Paul Wattelet (PhD NE ’67) arrived at Purdue in the early 1960s, he found himself surrounded by the pioneers of nuclear engineering — including several individuals who had worked on the Manhattan Project. He was impressed by their qualifications, but even more so by their attitudes toward him, a recent graduate who was passionate about nuclear power.
“They were the nicest people I ever met in academia,” Wattelet says. “Their teaching was exceptional, and I was inspired by how encouraging they were of me and my research.”
Four decades later, memories of that support prompted Paul and his wife, Madeline (MS Mathematics ’66), to make a $750,000 donation to the School of Nuclear Engineering. The gift, with the help of an earlier matching fund, helped establish the $1.5 million Paul L. Wattelet Professorship in Nuclear Engineering.
“I did well in my career, thanks in part to my experiences at Purdue and the people there,” says Wattelet, who retired in 2005 as CEO of Sargent & Lundy, an international power engineering consulting firm. “They were so supportive of me that I had to give back.”
Scholarship and leadership
On a recent campus visit — during which Wattelet received the 2018 Outstanding Nuclear Engineers Award — the Wattelets saw the results of their generosity firsthand. They met with Ahmed Hassanein, the first Paul L. Wattelet Professor, to learn about some of the student research projects underway.
Increased student engagement is not the only benefit of the Wattelets’ generosity. According to Hassanein, the Wattelets’ gift supports the School of Nuclear Engineering’s goal to increase faculty by 30 percent and position Purdue at the forefront of advances in nuclear engineering.
“Support from donors like the Wattelets is essential in keeping our program among the top in the nation,” Hassanein says. “It enables us to bring new research concepts to the school and assemble the best team of faculty to make that research flourish.”
Seungjin Kim, the Capt. James F. McCarthy, Jr. and Cheryl E. McCarthy Head of the School of Nuclear Engineering, agrees with Hassanein’s assessment of the gift’s impact.
“Endowed professorships help us attract and retain world-class scholars with expertise in a particular area of nuclear engineering,” Kim says. “These are individuals who possess, or have the potential to develop, strong leadership skills that will benefit the school, the college, the University and the community at large.”
That focus on leadership is precisely what the Wattelets had in mind when they endowed the professorship.
“Our goal is to help the School of Nuclear Engineering attract and keep great professors and leaders,” Wattelet says, “just like the ones who inspired me half a century ago.”
Banner Photo Caption
Madeline and Paul Wattelet
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