Robert A. Foisie, ’56, is giving Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) the largest gift in the university’s 149-year history.
Foisie, a first-generation college graduate who, himself, received scholarships during his time as an undergraduate at WPI, is giving the university $40 million to provide scholarships for generations of students to come. Over the years, Foisie has built a long and generous history of philanthropy at WPI, with a particular focus on undergraduate scholarships; prior to making this gift, the trustee emeritus was already the university’s largest single donor and has provided scholarships to some 580 WPI students. With this new commitment, Foisie’s lifetime of giving to WPI will amount to more than $63 million.
His philanthropy to WPI includes the establishment of the Robert Foisie Scholars Fund in 2009. Prior to that, he had established 17 other undergraduate scholarships named in honor of WPI professors who influenced his life.
In recognition of his deep generosity to the university, Foisie will receive an honorary doctorate of engineering at the 2014 WPI Commencement on Saturday, May 17. The university will also name the WPI School of Business, and will name a new innovation center (in its renovated Alumni Gym building) in honor of Foisie’s lifetime giving. On Thursday, May 15, at 4:30 pm, the university will unveil the new name for the innovation center outside of Alumni Gymnasium.
“Bob Foisie is a very successful man who never lost sight of his roots or what’s important; he takes ‘paying it forward’ seriously, and we are deeply grateful to him for the support that he continues to provide to so many outstanding students who could not otherwise afford a WPI education,” said interim president Philip B. Ryan. “This university seeks to attract our nation’s best undergraduate candidates – regardless of need. We engage students in addressing some of the most important problems facing our world, and we want the best and brightest because we believe that, with the knowledge, skills, insight, and passion that a WPI education instills, they could go on from here to change the world for the better. Bob Foisie recognizes this value proposition, and this potential, too, and he supports this university and our students most profoundly.”
Megan Forti ‘14, a chemical engineering major and a Foisie Scholar, has taken advantage of everything WPI has to offer.
Foisie, who hails from Connecticut and now resides in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., comes from humble beginnings and is a self-made innovator and entrepreneur. He was born and raised in West Hartford, Conn., and was the first member of his family to attend college when he enrolled at WPI in 1952. In order to attend the university, he worked after school as a clerk and a truck driver to save money. With his savings, and with scholarships throughout his four years here, Foisie graduated from WPI in 1956 with a BS in mechanical engineering. From there, he went on to earn a master’s degree from Cornell University in 1958.
“The financial assistance that I received during my time at WPI allowed me to stay in school and realize my potential as an innovator and entrepreneur,” said Foisie. “This university means a great deal to me, and the knowledge that I gained here, the people I engaged with, and my experiences have been invaluable to my growth as a person and a successful businessman. This gift is the fulfillment of my dream to establish a scholarship fund that would support qualified students with financial need and a burning ambition to make a difference in the world.”
Foisie began his career as an engineer at Hamilton Standard Co. and later served as chief production engineer at Pratt & Whitney in Hartford, Conn. As a young engineer, he found a way to simplify the design of a fuel control valve for jet aircraft, which led to a patent. Among his many credits, he is founder and former president of Matik North America Inc. in West Hartford, Conn., an import, distribution, and service firm specializing in paper-processing machinery. He also owned a Swiss company that makes cartoning and packaging machinery. His many current entrepreneurial and business interests span telecommunications to real estate.
Foisie Scholar Natasa Trkulja ’14, an electrical and computer engineering major, marvels at how WPI has changed her life.
This gift supports the $200 million "if…The Campaign to Advance WPI," – the largest comprehensive fundraising campaign in university history, which was launched in 2012. A key goal of this fundraising effort is to engage donors in helping to fund student financial assistance, and the university is working to ensure that 37.5 percent of the revenues — or about $75 million – will directly benefit students through scholarships and financial aid.