Put your money where your heart is: Purdue ME faculty create endowments to help students
Helping hand in a time of need
“The world is full of challenges,” said Jay Gore, Reilly University Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “Both my wife Medha and I have experienced this, and we have also learned that at these times of need, small amounts can make a big difference.”
This became even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We saw that many of our students faced difficulties, around the world and here in the United States,” said Jay. “We asked each other, ‘What can we do?’”
The Gores created the Mechanical Engineering Student Support Fund in Honor of Nalini Gore and the late Prabhakar Gore Endowment. Jay drew inspiration not only from his Purdue colleagues, but from the examples in his own family.
“My mother went to college while raising three of us, because my father had passed away when I was 16,” said Jay. “Both she and my father stressed the importance of an education. Our family experienced many challenges, and my mother faced them head on.”
That’s why they chose to create an endowment to provide a boost for students who may be at their lowest point. “This is for students who are performing well in their classes, but encounter difficulties outside of their control,” said Jay. “What we may consider small things – a winter coat, a pair of shoes, a tire that needs to be replaced – can significantly impact a student’s well-being. We as faculty members should be perceptive to the needs our students have. Even a small boost and can make a big difference.”
For Eckhard and Tamara Groll, their inspiration came from overseas.
Eckhard is the William E. and Florence E. Perry Head of Mechanical Engineering, and Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering. He is also one of the founding members of the Global Engineering Alliance for Research and Education, or GEARE. Founded in 2003, the GEARE program empowers Purdue students to both study abroad and work abroad.
“We specifically designed the program so that students get a comprehensive global engineering experience,” said Eckhard. “In today’s workforce, engineering problems are tackled on a global basis. It’s very important that students get that ‘second culture’ experience. We have kept in touch with many of the students who went through the program, and GEARE helped them kickstart their careers in a huge way. In fact, many students ended up working permanently in the countries where they studied abroad.”
“Our own daughter studied abroad,” said Tamara. “GEARE is such a wonderful program, full of opportunities. But we saw that for some students, it can be a financial burden to get travel or housing. So if students are on the fence if they want to participate, we want to do our part to make that decision just a little easier.”
They created the Eckhard and Tamara Groll GEARE Study Abroad Fund Endowment to help those students who would benefit most from an international experience. “We’ve always been donors to Purdue, whether it be Convocations, or Athletics, or other areas,” said Tamara. “But studying abroad is particularly important to us. We were able to work with the Purdue For Life Foundation to pay over time, and still see the benefits of helping individual students study abroad.”
“We helped to create GEARE in 2003, and went to Germany for the first session with six ME students,” said Eckhard. “Now, hundreds of students have gone through the program, from many different disciplines and in many different countries. I like the fact that with this endowment, our names will represent something permanent here at Purdue. Even after we are gone, we’ve left a legacy for future Boilermakers.”
For the Grolls, supporting students financially is just a logical extension of what they do every day. “It’s our job as educators to help these students achieve,” said Eckhard. “So helping students is in our DNA! We know there are many students with financial needs. If you have the means, supporting these students can have a significant impact.”
It takes a village
For Ajay and Savita Malshe, global impact was also an important factor in their decision to create an endowment at Purdue. “We are both first generation immigrants to America, and are very thankful to have built our careers here,” said Ajay Malshe, the R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering.
“We both also have a background in education,” said Savita, a retired high school math teacher. “Students have a special place in our hearts, and we want to see them succeed in their careers. That’s why we want to support mentorship for students, especially at the undergraduate level.”
“America is a country of second chances, and that’s what mentoring means to us,” said Ajay. “People who have been there can offer their experiences to students, as a guiding hand when students need it most.”
The Malshes made their transition to Purdue at one of the most challenging time in history, arriving on campus in January 2020. Living through a pandemic may have soured many people’s experiences, but for Ajay, it confirmed that his commitment to Purdue was a good investment. “It has been a difficult two years for everyone, but especially for students,” he said. “Seeing how they came through the challenges, and what they have achieved, has been amazing. Purdue invested time, money, and resources into helping them get the most out of their education, even during challenging times. It’s commendable, and we wanted to play just a small part in that.”
“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” he continued. “It takes all of Purdue to create a successful student. And we’ve seen it firsthand: faculty, staff, students, alumni. It is not just coming here for a degree and then leaving; this is a lifelong relationship.”
A heart for graduate students
“I have always had an interest in supporting graduate students,” said Anil Bajaj, the Alpha P. Jamison Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Bajaj came to Purdue in 1981, and in 1997 he became the chair of the graduate program – a position he held until 2011, when he was chosen to become the Head of the School of Mechanical Engineering.
“That means I also saw many graduate students who got into financial trouble,” he said. “Funding for grad students is sometimes tenuous, and there are always students who fall through the cracks. There needs to be a fund to support graduate students in time of need.”
That fund now exists: the Dr. Anil K. Bajaj Graduate Student Support Endowment in Mechanical Engineering. It was set up to honor Anil’s service, after he stepped down as the Head in 2019.
“During my time, I saw many examples of funding running out, which is outside the control of the students,” said Anil. “It’s tremendously stressful for them. Now they have to worry about their next meal, rather than focusing on their work or their classes. It’s great that Purdue can stand in that gap to help those graduate students.”
While Anil and his wife, Renu, have supported many causes financially, Purdue has a special place in their hearts. “I’m a proud Purdue mom,” said Renu. “I’m happy to give back to the community that helped our kids become such good citizens.”
“Purdue is the only job I have ever known for 41 years,” said Anil. “We are proud to support such a wonderful institution, and to help the students who need it.”
Interested in supporting endowments at Purdue Mechanical Engineering? Contact Scott Banfield: firstname.lastname@example.org or (765) 494-5629