Anonymous $1M cash gift to establish scholarships for Black engineering students at Purdue


An anonymous $1 million cash gift from a member of the Purdue University College of Engineering community will establish scholarships named in honor of the college’s first Black graduate as an impetus to energize and expand ongoing support to recruit and retain Black engineering students. The new diversity in engineering scholarship endowment is named in memory of alumnus David Robert Lewis, who graduated from Purdue with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1894. A native of Greensburg, Indiana, Lewis was one of only nine Black students who graduated from Indiana colleges between the Civil War and the year 1900.

The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) was conceived and founded at Purdue in 1975, launching a national model to help improve the recruitment and retention of Black engineering students. Similarly, Purdue’s Minority Engineering Program (MEP), which started in 1974, was instrumental in the establishment of the national launch of NSBE. MEP is another of several initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion in the College of Engineering. About 3% of Purdue students are Black or African American."Central to the effort to improve access to minority students is affordability," said Virginia Booth Womack, Director of the Minority Engineering Program. “This magnificent gift presents a perfect example of how important it is to have more resources for underrepresented minority students. Over the years, we know from experience just how much philanthropy provides support that our students need both academically and financially. We are hopeful that gifts like this, as well as Purdue’s increased focus on affordability, will inspire others to contribute to scholarships and programs that are accessible to all."

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