Mark Gelfand is not a Case Western Reserve alumnus. He doesn't even live in Cleveland. So what prompted him to make a leadership gift to create the Engineering Technology Education Fund at the Case School of Engineering?
"I want young students to have as much fun in the STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] world as I have," explains Gelfand of Needham, Mass.-based Intex Solutions, Inc. "It is my passion to connect students to STEM experiences. I feel that many young students have little relevant exposure to this world and are therefore missing the fun, creativity, and validation it can provide."
Gelfand's connection to Case Western Reserve comes partly from family ties. His mother earned a master's degree from Western Reserve University, and his father studied there briefly. His uncle, Leonard Gelfand, attended Case Institute of Technology and graduated as an electrical engineer.
His connection also comes from his own STEM experiences growing up in the shadow of Cleveland's manufacturing economy. "By the end of high school, I had benefited enormously from working in local factories and visiting the area's many educational, technical, and industrial institutions," he notes. "In making this gift, I want to help provide this experience for the next generation of students who have a passion for math and science."
The Engineering Technology Education Fund will provide critical seed funding to establish the STEM component of the Great Lakes Institute for Energy Innovation.
"STEM initiatives are a vital part of our efforts in energy innovation," notes Norman C. Tien, dean and Nord Professor of Engineering. "If we are going to evolve long-term solutions for today's energy demands and tomorrow's applications, we need to help engage and sustain the next generation of great scientists, engineers, and thinkers. It's part of our role as a major private research university."
Gelfand has also supported STEM projects in Boston, at his alma mater Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and in Israel, which recently sent a group of at-risk Ethiopian immigrant high schoolers to compete in the International FIRST robotics contest in Atlanta.
"It was only a matter of time until I realized that there was something missing in my 'portfolio' of STEM projects," Gelfand notes. "I needed to do something for the community where I grew up."
To learn more about supporting STEM education or energy innovation at Case Western Reserve University, please contact the office of development at 216-368-4352.