Wayne State announces $5M gift, new testing lab

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

As a graduate of the Wayne State University’s College of Engineering, Avinash Rachmale has had an ongoing relationship with the school. He started a business locally, hires Wayne State graduates and sits on the college’s Board of Visitors.

From right, Wayne State President Dr. M. Roy Wilson shares a laugh Thursday with donors Hema Rachmale and her husband Avinash Rachmale, and Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the College of Engineering.

That relationship grew Thursday with the university announcing that Rachmale and his wife, Hema, have donated $5 million to the College of Engineering for scholarships and a new testing laboratory.

“I’m passionate about Wayne State and I think this will be a great help to the engineering school,” said Rachmale, CEO and chairman of engineering firm Lakeshore Global Corporation.

The announcement comes as Wayne State wraps up its “Pivotal Moments” fundraising campaign and the university closes out its sesquicentennial celebration on Friday. The university raised $776.5 million, exceeding its $750 million goal, University President M. Roy Wilson told The Detroit News. It’s the most successful in Wayne State’s history, school officials said.

Wilson noted that 84,000 individuals donated toward the campaign.

“Our alumni in general are very generous,” he said. “There are so many alumni that feel that this university has made a big impact on their lives and they want to give back.”

Rachmale graduated with a master’s degree in civil engineering 1989 and his wife, Hema, received a certificate in hazardous waste control in 1992.

The Rachmales have created a $1 million endowment scholarship under the N. Rachmale Foundation to help about five graduates from Detroit Public Schools Community District each year attend the university’s college of engineering. The Rachmales will also spend $4 million to build a structures and materials engineering testing laboratory on their business campus on Hamilton in Highland Park.

A rendering shows a new building planned for Wayne State University's Highland Park campus.  Donated by the N. Rachmale Foundation, the building will house a material testing lab.

The 8,000-square-foot building, the N. Rachmale Foundation Structures and Materials Laboratory, is expected to be complete in 2020. The building sits next to Rachmale’s 70,000-square-foot business headquarters.

“Public universities now in general have been getting less state support and this has been a trend for the last 10 years,” Wilson said. “So endowments and other forms of philanthropic support become very important.”

Donor and WSU graduate Avinash Rachmale and his wife, Hema Rachmale, gave a $5 million gift to the university that will go toward building a new structures and materials lab in Highland Park and scholarships for students in Detroit Public Schools.

The facility will provide civil engineering students and faculty members with an opportunity to do large-scale, real-world structures and materials testing projects, said Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the College of Engineering. This work wasn’t previously possible due to space constraints on the main campus for large trucks to transport products such as steel and concrete bridge girders, bridge decks and steel.

The lab will be useful for the Michigan Department of Transportation and engineering and construction companies, Fotouhi said. It will also provide space for teams preparing for statewide concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions.

“They never had a space of their own,” he said. “They’re always moving around to find a space to build these canoes. This lab allows them to have 24/7 access to be able to build those canoes. The other one, the steel bridge competition, which requires a large space to build a bridge and do the testing on the bridge. Having a space dedicated to that will be great.”

Students will work alongside faculty and professionals on the business campus.  

“When students are in a location where work is going on that they aspire to do, then it just enhances their educational program so much more,” Wilson said. “Not just be isolated and work without the benefit of others who are already in the field.”

There are 3,637 undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Engineering. In the 2017-18 school year, the college awarded 1,024 degrees.  

The scholarship portion of the donation will increase the university’s attractiveness to minority studies interested in the field, Fotouhi said.

“The focus of getting underrepresented students, minorities into engineering is a challenge,” he said.

“Identifying talented students and providing them with a scholarship that makes quite an impact. A lot of our students, minority students that are from the Detroit area, they want to graduate and they want to contribute to this part of the country in southeast Michigan," Fotouhi said. "They’re very loyal and they come back to us and say how we can help our community. I think it’s going to have a large impact as we go forward with support of underrepresented minorities.”


Twitter: @CWilliams_DN