Endowment Donors Find Personal Meaning in Giving

In 2014, the AIChE Foundation — the philanthropic arm of the Institute — launched its Doing a World of Good fundraising campaign, the most ambitious fundraising effort in the Institute’s history. Doing a World of Good supports five priorities identified by members of the AIChE community as being imperative to advancing chemical engineering around the world: attracting the best and brightest people to the chemical engineering profession; education, training, and career support for chemical engineers; research and innovation; safety and ethical practice; and public outreach to change society’s perceptions about chemical engineers and their contributions.

An additional goal of the campaign is to help AIChE build an endowment that will ensure the financial stability and the longevity of programs that are critical to the Institute’s mission.

"A healthy endowment provides opportunities for an organization to more vigorously deliver upon its mission,” says Stephanie Viola, the Foundation’s Director of Development. “Whether we’re talking about awards, education, student programs, new technical programming — all signature AIChE offerings — the AIChE Endowment provides a secure source of funding to make certain that AIChE is what it aspires to be.”

Eduardo D. Glandt, the Foundation’s Chair, notes that the Foundation fulfills other crucial purposes. “I believe that the endowment of a not-for-profit institution like AIChE is one of the most important measures of its health and stability,” he says. “It is an integral metric, one that expresses the loyalty and commitment of AIChE members over an extended period of time.”

Gifts to the AIChE Endowment are permanent and provide self-sustaining sources of funding for current needs as well as for future prosperity. Donors to the endowment can also specify spending instructions for their gifts, and many AIChE members are finding meaningful way to express their dedication to AIChE through their endowment gifts.

Alfred Wechsler, a former director of AIChE and a past chair of the Foundation Board of Trustees, targeted his endowment gift to the Doing a World of Good initiatives supporting innovation and entrepreneurship. “Solving new problems frequently requires trying innovative approaches,” he says. “I am convinced that chemical engineers can enhance their contribution to society by following a path of innovation.” Wechsler says that his career has been significantly enhanced by his participation in AIChE. “Supporting the AIChE Endowment is a good way for me to acknowledge the benefits that I received from AIChE, as well as to provide students and young professionals with access to the learning and support that I have received.”

Emmett Miller, a 50-plus-year member of AIChE, directs his Foundation gifts to the endowment to help secure the Institute’s permanent asset base. “This is important to me, from the standpoint of ensuring the financial stability of an institution to which I am committed,” says Miller.

Robert H. Davis, a former chair of the Institute’s Awards Committee, found an opportunity to celebrate his PhD mentor by leading the Foundation’s effort to endow the Institute’s Professional Progress Award in the name of fluid-dynamics pioneer Andreas Acrivos. “I gave this gift, and helped solicit gifts from other former students of Acrivos, to honor in perpetuity the many contributions that our advisor has made to the profession — both through his research and through inspiring many students who have gone on to successful careers of their own,” says Davis. He adds, “I know the importance of recognizing outstanding chemical engineers, and I am pleased to help elevate the prestige of the Professional Progress Award through the endowment in the name of Professor Acrivos.”

One of the former students of Acrivos who made a gift to the AIChE Endowment is Franklin Orr, who serves as the U.S. Under Secretary for Science and Energy. Orr says that his gift to help endow the Acrivos Professional Progress Award was “a small way for me to honor a towering figure in chemical engineering, and one who had a transformative impact on my professional life — as well as to help recognize the next generation of talented engineers who will follow his example.”

David Eckhardt, a former director of AIChE, recently capped off 40-plus years of personal investment in the Institute with a gift to endow the annual Northeast Regional Student Conference. He has been a dedicated volunteer and supporter of student regional conferences for more than 20 years — first in Mid-America, and then, after relocating to Massachusetts, in the Northeast region. “Many of us feel that the student program is key to AIChE’s global reach and growth,” he says.

In 2014, Eckhardt and his wife Karen realized that an endowment gift to support the Northeast Regional Student Conference was doable and would solve a long-term problem. “Fundraising for the regional conference is always difficult for the students,” says Eckhardt, who arranged a $100,000 donation using a match from the Pfizer Foundation. “It is gratifying that we can provide underwriting for the Northeast Regional Conference for the foreseeable future.”

He adds, “Endowment gifts are an example of what AIChE members and the Foundation, working together, can accomplish.”

Through the Foundation, the Doing a World of Good campaign can bring together the best minds to create positive action in addressing the issues facing the world.

- S. Shariq Yosufzai, Chevron

Otis Shelton, who served as AIChE President in 2014, now co-chairs the Foundation’s Minority Affairs Committee (MAC) Endowment fund. The Foundation, working with MAC, has launched a $300,000 fund drive to endow MAC’s annual scholarships, which have benefitted more than 400 high school and university students over the past 25 years.

“A key ingredient for success is leveraging our diversity,” says Shelton. “Unfortunately, many minority students who achieve high academic performance don’t have the financial resources to pursue an engineering degree.” He says that, while MAC scholarships have made an impact, demographic changes indicate that AIChE must do more to sustain the program and benefit more minority students. “Whether or not we achieve our vision depends on the generosity of endowment donors,” says Shelton.

Beginning in the 1960s, Gerry Lessells, a former director of AIChE, was a pioneering advocate for under-represented people in chemical engineering and the Institute. In 2015, he endowed a bequest to advance AIChE’s work on diversity. “By furthering the inclusion of women and minorities in AIChE, our profession will be bolstered by talent that would not otherwise be available to us,” says Lessells. “The Foundation, of course, is dedicated to many aspects of improving our profession, so those of us who might like to have an impact need only explore such opportunities with the Foundation to find a fit.”

S. Shariq Yosufzai, Vice President for Global Diversity, Ombuds, and University Affairs at Chevron, is also passionate about diversity in the profession. His endowment gift supports the Doing a World of Good initiatives. “Chemical engineering is uniquely positioned to solve the grand challenges of the present and the future,” says Yosufzai. “Through the Foundation, the Doing a World of Good campaign can bring together the best minds to create positive action in addressing the issues facing the world.” He adds, “Chemical engineering has been transformative for me. I hope that my gift to the AIChE Endowment will aid in positioning AIChE and the profession to contribute to the greater good. And I hope that my colleagues are as moved as I was to support these efforts.”

Foundation Chair Glandt views gifts to the endowment as investments in the future and expressions of an intergenerational pact. “Building an endowment is what senior members of AIChE can and ought to do for the sake of younger members,” he says, adding: “AIChE has been the ‘professional home’ for many of us. We own it, collectively. With this ownership, like with any privilege, comes responsibility.”

Learn about the Doing a World of Good campaign and work of the AIChE Foundation at www.aiche.org/giving.