Endowed Chair Dedicated to Interdisciplinary Teaching
President Alison Byerly on Feb. 12 announced multiple gifts totaling $3 million from the Air Products Foundation ($1.5 million), Air Products Chairman, President, and CEO Seifollah “Seifi” Ghasemi ($500,000), as well as an anonymous donor matching gift ($1 million) in support of an endowed faculty chair in engineering and related facilities. The faculty position will be dedicated to interdisciplinary teaching.
“We are immensely grateful both to Air Products, a longtime supporter of Lafayette and employer of many Lafayette graduates, and to Seifi Ghasemi, who has equally deep roots in the Lafayette community, for their commitment to advancing engineering education at the College through the Air Products–Ghasemi Professorship,” said Byerly said.
Byerly made the announcement moments before Ghasemi delivered the President’s Entrepreneurship Lecture to a capacity audience of faculty, students, and staff at Colton Chapel.
In his remarks, he stressed the importance of humanities to every curriculum—including engineering, which he learned as a student at Iran’s Abadan Institute of Technology, established in partnership with Lafayette College (1956-67) to help the country train leaders for its oil industry.
Ghasemi, who received an honorary degree from Lafayette in 2017, credits the College education he received at Abadan, which he said provided a rich liberal arts foundation that taught him how to think creatively to solve real-world problems throughout his career.
“Through Abadan, Lafayette gave me not just an education, but also the vision to take a broad look at opportunities when making decisions throughout my career,” said Ghasemi, who was appointed to lead Air Products as chairman, president and chief executive officer in 2014.
“The curriculum established by Lafayette went beyond teaching just the necessities of engineering. It taught me how to think and to consider how to solve real-world problems in the way you live your life,” he added. “Now, it is an honor and a privilege for me to give back to Lafayette and to say thank you.”
Air Products, a leading global industrial gases company based in Trexlertown, Pa., is one of Lafayette’s most enduring corporate collaborators. The company has been a steadfast supporter of the College’s engineering programs and has funded the Minority Scientists & Engineers, Society of Women Engineers, Lafayette’s chapters of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers chapter as well as equipment purchases for all the College’s engineering programs. Air Products was a principal sponsor of the gala commemorating 150 years of engineering at Lafayette in October 2016.
“The Air Products–Ghasemi Professorship aligns perfectly with Lafayette’s strategic goal to attract more underrepresented groups to our engineering programs—interdisciplinary fields such as bioengineering, environmental engineering, and robotics that cross the traditional boundaries of engineering,” said Scott Hummel, William Jeffers Director of the Engineering Division.
“These types of areas are the fastest-growing areas of engineering and attract underrepresented students in significantly higher numbers,” he added.
As Lafayette expands its student body and increases its affordability, providing more interdisciplinary opportunities for students in engineering helps the College attract great students and faculty with diverse interests, Hummel said.
“Seifi embodies the Lafayette ideal of an interdisciplinary engineer with the ability to think broadly and see opportunity where others do not, and it all started with the deep connections he made with Lafayette faculty when he was a student at Abadan Institute of Technology,” he said.