Second Largest Bequest in WPI History Received

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

Contact: Bonnie Gelbwasser

Worcester, Mass. -- A bequest of $2.567 million has been received from the estate of Harry A. Sorensen, a WPI alumnus of the Class of 1930.

"This bequest is the second largest single amount received in the history of WPI," says Elizabeth Siladi, director of planned giving at the technological university. "This gift reflects the high esteem Harry Sorensen held for his alma mater."

The largest gift ever received by WPI was from George C. Gordon, Class of 1895, who left $5 million to his alma mater in 1964. The money was used for the building of the George C. Gordon Library, that recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.

The gift from Sorensen will be used to establish a scholarship fund to be known as the Harry A. Sorensen Scholarship Fund. Sorensen, who left no surviving family, had a distinguished career in both industry and later as a college professor and published author.

Originally from Hartford, Conn., Sorensen earned one of the four matriculation scholarships to WPI in 1926 by taking tests on nine subjects. WPI later granted him a scholarship for his next three years. He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering.

While at WPI, Sorensen was affectionately know as "H.A." or "Gummy" and was active in the radio and rifle clubs. He was the manager of the golf team and member of ASME, Tau Beta Pi, and Theta Upsilon Omega fraternity. During the Depression he initially worked for Stone and Webster in Boston, an engineering firm building dams and power plants. Later, from 1930 to 1936, he worked for the Hartford Metropolitan District before returning to college for his master's degree from the University of Michigan in 1937. He taught mechanical engineering at Pennsylvania State University and in 1945 received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan. He worked for Pratt & Whitney Aircraft until 1947 when he began his distinguished career in higher education.

He joined the faculty at Washington State University in 1948, heading the Mechanical Engineering Department for 20 years prior to his retirement in 1973. He was the author of three engineering books, Gas Turbines (1951), Principles of Thermodynamics (1961) and Energy Conversion Systems (1983). His wife of 60 years, Merella, died in 1991.