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March 26, 2024

WPI given $18M in donations, announced as President Wang is inaugurated

A woman in a formal red robe is applauded by six other robed people standing on a stage. Photo | Courtesy of Worcester Polytechnic Institute Grace Want was formally inaugurated into her role as president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Friday.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute has received $18.6 million in donations in the last two months, the university announced as part of the inauguration ceremony of Grace Wang, who took over as its 17th president in April.

The donations, made by seven individuals, are in support of the university’s Beyond These Towers: The Campaign for Worcester Polytechnic Institute, according to a WPI press release on Friday. The campaign was publicly launched in 2021 with a fundraising goal of $500 million, the largest in the university’s history. The goal is to provide financial assistance to students while funding research with a global impact. 

WPI named three of the donors, who all made unspecified seven-figure donations.

Mike Abrams, a WPI alumnus from the Class of 1977, and his wife, Nancy, made the fourth largest gift to the university ever. The money will be used for capital projects. A former electrical engineer, Mike Abrams has volunteered on various WPI efforts, including on the search committee that hired Wang.

The former co-director of the WPI Armenian Project Center, Diran Apelian, along with his wife Seta, established the Apelian Family Armenian Project Center endowment with a seven-figure donation. Diran Apelian was honored as WPI Innovator of the Year in 2018 for his role in spinning out WPI-led technology into the private companies Leominster tech firm Solvus Global and Westborough electric vehicle recycler Ascend Elements. He is the founding director of WPI’s Metals Processing Institute and the Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling.

Steve Vassallo, a WPI alumnus from the Class of 1993 and his wife, Trae, made a seven-figure donation in honor of his mother: WPI icon Helen Vassallo. A longtime professor, she was the first female department head at WPI and the first woman to be elected secretary of the faculty, which is the highest faculty position. The donation establishes the Helen G. Vassallo Distinguished Presidential Professorship.

The remaining four gifts will support undergraduate scholarships and a faculty research fund.

The announcement of the donations came as part of the inauguration ceremony on Friday of Wang, who became the first person of color to lead WPI as president on a non-interim basis when she started in April. Colleges tend to wait several months between when their presidents start their tenures and when they are formally inaugurated into their roles.

“Ever since joining WPI a little over a year ago, I have been inspired by our community’s passion for our student-centric mission and commitment to our innovative culture,” Wang said in the Friday press release.

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