sealPurdue News

July 24, 2000

Gift bridges technology and aeronautical engineering

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Thanks to the generosity of an alumnus and his wife, Purdue University will graduate engineers better prepared to blend the theory of engineering with real-world applications in aeronautics.

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The blending is made possible by a $2 million gift from James Raisbeck, a 1961 aeronautical engineering graduate, and his wife, Sherry, through their company Raisbeck Engineering Inc. The money will fund a distinguished professorship, supporting a faculty member devoted to developing interdisciplinary courses and pulling together students from two different Purdue schools – the School of Technology and the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics – to work on the same projects.

"It's important for aeronautical engineering graduates to understand the theories behind our technological and aeronautical advances, but just as important is the ability to apply those theories to the real world," James Raisbeck said.

Raisbeck owns and is chief executive officer of both Raisbeck Engineering Inc. and Raisbeck Commercial Air Group in Seattle, a company that integrates advanced technology into existing business and commercial aircraft to increase their productivity and profitability.

"Most of the time, designers work independently of the producers, and I'd like this gift to educate future engineers on how to work with a theoretical idea through its practical application. Just understanding how air flows over the wings of airplanes requires a clear working knowledge of both fields. I've been fortunate to hire engineers who clearly grasp this principle, and we need more who comprehend both," he said.

To achieve this goal, Purdue will design new courses that put students from both schools in a teamwork environment that duplicates similar work in aircraft companies.

"We're excited because this is the direction of business, and it means students will have the opportunity to do more than develop new ideas and strategies to improve air travel. They will also see their ideas come to fruition through practical application," said Michael Kroes, head of the Purdue Department of Aviation Technology in the School of Technology.

Tom Farris, head of the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics – one of 13 schools in Purdue's Schools of Engineering – added that the cross-disciplinary projects will give graduates an edge when they enter the work force.

"The students will interact throughout the semester to go through the design, building and testing stages to construct aircraft components and small radio-controlled aircraft," Farris said. "We are very enthused about this program, and very grateful to the Raisbecks for giving us the opportunity to do this."

This gift is one of many the Seattle couple has given to various causes. They are well known in the Seattle area for their support of Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Seattle Opera, the Pacific Northwest Ballet and Cornish College of the Arts, Sherry Raisbeck's alma mater.

"We both believe you should 'give while you live,' and we also want to set an example of giving for others," Sherry Raisbeck said. "The greatest joy we could possibly have is to encourage other people to think philanthropically."

Through the Raisbeck Foundation, the couple also funds four-year, full-tuition scholarships to students in the Purdue Department of Aviation Technology. In 1996, they gave a $75,000 grant to help these young scholars attain advanced aeronautics degrees. Purdue currently has seven Raisbeck Scholars. The first scholar graduated in 1999 and now works for Raisbeck Engineering.

"I credit Purdue with giving me the skills to tackle previously unfathomable technical problems," James Raisbeck said. "The university taught me to take apart a complex problem, solve each of the small parts, and then come up with a final solution. This is one way my wife and I can help others attain their educational goals."

Sources: James and Sherry Raisbeck, (206) 723-2000,

Tom Farris, (765) 494-5117,

Mike Kroes, (765) 494-9957,

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, (765) 494-2073,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;


Sherry and James Raisbeck of Raisbeck Engineering Inc., Seattle, recently gave Purdue University $2 million to establish a distinguished professorship that will link courses and students in Purdue's School of Technology with those in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. (Photo courtesy James Raisbeck)

A publication-quality photograph is available at the News Service Web site and at the ftp site. Photo ID: Raisbeck.aeronautics

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