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K-State Today

June 3, 2011

Gift of $100,000 helps to establish the next generation of innovators

Submitted by Julie Fosberg

It's long been a mission of the Kansas State University College of Engineering to impress the value of the entrepreneurial spirit upon its student body -- and to demonstrate the potential for greatness to those willing to take the initiative and risk to be pioneers of the future.

Raj Nathan, Pleasanton, Calif., knows the value of nurturing that spirit. His career has taken him around the globe, from India to Manhattan, Kan., to California, and has run the gamut from hardware to software, from large companies to small. When he visited Manhattan in fall 2009 to deliver "Being an Entrepreneur in an Established Company -- Not an Oxymoron" as part of the College of Engineering's Eyestone Distinguished Lecture Series, he articulated that innovation, entrepreneurship and risk-taking shouldn't be confined to the world of small start-ups; rather, they're values needed to succeed in any sector of the professional world, values that are by-products of a sound education.


To help ensure such values are nurtured at Kansas State, Nathan and his wife Diana have made a gift of $100,000 to the College of Engineering to establish the Raj and Diana Nathan Undergraduate Research Excellence Fund. It will provide financial assistance to undergraduate student research in the college.

Although Nathan earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Madras in India and his master's degree and doctorate in industrial engineering from Iowa State University, he is no stranger to Manhattan. He was a professor at Kansas State for four years, where he initiated a new program in manufacturing and systems engineering and started an advanced systems institute. He was recognized with the College of Engineering's prestigious James L. Hollis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and named the Steel Ring adviser of the year. He also received the Society of Manufacturing Engineers' Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award.

Now as executive vice president at Sybase, a global software company with more than 4,000 employees in 60 countries, Nathan sets the technology direction and spearheads all marketing initiatives for the company and its subsidiaries.

In light of his world experience and achievements, Nathan also understands the value and impact his gift will have on the College of Engineering.

"The continued ability in the future to have the quality of life that we have today is in no small measure dependent on continued innovation in our country," he said. "Research is at the heart of innovation, and to encourage interest in research from the early stages is what the dean aims. We are happy to lend our support to this important initiative."

"We want our students to be aware of the challenges and rewards available to those contributing their capacities and talents toward innovation," said John English, dean of the College of Engineering. "The Nathans' gift will have a wonderful impact in providing our students with research opportunities to develop their talents and set themselves on the path to become innovators."

Diana Nathan, a 1983 graduate of Kansas State's College of Engineering, is equally thrilled with the opportunities the couple's gift will help provide to students.

"Having financial assistance in the form of scholarships was of immense help to me when I went through the engineering program at Kansas State," she said. "We're glad to be able to do the same for future students."

Philanthropic contributions to Kansas State are coordinated by the Kansas State University Foundation. The foundation staff works with university partners to build lifelong relationships with alumni, friends, faculty, staff and students through involvement and investment in the university.