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April 2, 2013

Ex-WPI Student Gives $7.8M

A former Worcester Polytechnic Institute student who dropped out because he couldn't afford the education has donated $7.8 million to the school for scholarships.

According to WPI, it's one of the largest gifts the school has ever received.

The donor, 98-year-old Henry R. Poplawski who now lives in Dayton, Ohio, attended WPI in the 1930s and eventually completed his degree on the West Coast, going on to become a pilot, test pilot and aeronautical engineer in the Air Force.

"I owe WPI a lot," Poplawski said. "WPI got me on the right path. I probably wouldn't have gone to college otherwise. I had no money to complete my studies, so I want to help others continue theirs. I don't want anyone else to have to leave school because they can't afford it."

His gift will support scholarships for undergraduates with financial need. It's also part of the school's $200 million fundraising campaign, which seeks to raise $75 million for student scholarships.

Poplawski's contribution brings the amount raised toward the scholarships goal to $53 million, and more than $137 million toward the campaign goal. Funding from the campaign will also support faculty and academic programs, campus life and facilities, and unrestricted annual support.

"We are humbled and eternally grateful for Mr. Poplawski's gift," said WPI President and CEO Dennis D. Berkey, who recently visited Poplawski to thank him and presented him with an honorary bachelor of science in engineering degree. "His determination to complete his studies and then launch an outstanding career – all the while remembering his WPI roots – is truly extraordinary. We are confident that his generosity and foresight will serve a new generation of WPI students."

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