President Wang's Inauguration wide crowd shot

WPI receives $18.6 million from alumni and friends as President Wang is Inaugurated

Gifts to Beyond These Towers: The Campaign for Worcester Polytechnic Institute support facilities, endowed scholarships, an endowed professorship, global projects, and unrestricted funds
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Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has received $18.6 million in philanthropic commitments that will be announced and celebrated during the installation of Grace J. Wang, PhD, as the 17th president of WPI, on Friday, March 22.

 The gifts, from seven generous WPI alumni and friends in the last two months, include the university's fourth largest to date and are in support of Beyond These Towers: The Campaign for Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

“Ever since joining WPI a little over a year ago, I have been inspired by our community’s passion for our student-centric mission and commitment to our innovative culture,” says Grace J. Wang, President of WPI. “As we come together to propel our university to an even higher level of excellence, I am deeply grateful to these alumni and friends whose generous support will help our innovative community meet this moment with creativity and agility.”  

“WPI’s global community of alumni, parents, friends, and partners has always cared deeply about this university and the important research, teaching, and hands-on project-based learning that happens here and beyond our campus,” says George Oliver ’82, chairman and CEO of Johnson Controls, WPI trustee, and National Campaign Chair. “We are grateful to these generous alumni and friends for their remarkable support of WPI and of President Wang. The magnitude of their contributions speaks volumes about their confidence in her leadership of our university as we celebrate her inauguration.”

The $18.6 million in total commitments support facilities, WPI’s distinctive global projects program, an endowed professorship and faculty research, and undergraduate scholarships: 

  • Mike Abrams ’77 and his wife, Nancy, have made a seven-figure commitment, and the fourth largest gift to the university to date, which will support future capital projects. Mike was an electrical engineer in the oil and gas instrumentation industry and before retiring had become an independent consultant. He is a model of alumni involvement and has served in numerous volunteer capacities over decades, including on the Alumni Association board, the Presidential Search Committee that brought President Wang to WPI, reunion committees, and many other committees and boards. He frequently attends WPI events, on campus and around the country;  he has received the Herbert F. Taylor Award for Service to WPI from the WPI Alumni Association. A consistent and generous annual and major donor to WPI, Mike he has supported a plethora of funds and initiatives at the university from academic departments and scholarships to varsity athletics and intramural teams and a wide range of student organizations. Creating space for living and learning has remained a priority for Mike throughout his philanthropic history with his alma mater. The Abramses’ recent capital gifts to the university include renovations that created the Alumni Center at Higgins House, which resulted in the naming of the Nancy and Mike Abrams ’77 Library  in Higgins House; leadership support of Unity Hall (WPI’s newest academic building), which includes the Nancy and Mike Abrams ’77 Multi-use Lounge and Creative Zone; and a recent gift to support renovations to Stratton Hall, home of the Mathematical Sciences Department, Mike's major at WPI.  
  • Diran Apelian and his wife, Seta, have established the Apelian Family Armenian Project Center Endowment with a seven-figure gift. Endowing the Armenian Project Center fulfills a personal passion for the Apelians while providing support for WPI’s distinctive hands-on project-based learning. For several years, Diran Apelian served as co-director of WPI’s Armenian Project Center, engaging students in solving real-world problems that impact communities and organizations. He is WPI Provost Emeritus (1990-1996), the founding director of the Metals Processing Institute at WPI; he founded the largest industrial consortium in North America, the Advanced Casting Research Center. He also founded the Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling (CR3), all initiatives that established WPI’s national and industry prominence in Materials Science and Engineering. In 2018, he was named the WPI Innovator of the Year in recognition of successful start-ups such as Solvus Global and Ascend Elements with colleagues and former students, as well as his contributions to scholarship that bridges academia and industry while also identifying fundamental scientific issues.
  • Steve Vassallo ’93 and his wife, Trae, have made a seven-figure commitment that lays the foundation for the Helen G. Vassallo Distinguished Presidential Professorship, named in memory of Steve’s mother and longtime WPI faculty member. In her time at WPI, spanning some 36 years, Dr. Vassallo became known for her impact on thousands of students and hundreds of faculty and staff through her work in the classroom, as an advisor, as a mentor, and as a colleague. She joined WPI with a joint appointment in the Management Department, for which she was the first woman named department head, and in the Biology and Biotechnology Department. She was also the first woman to be elected Secretary of the Faculty, the highest faculty post. She was devoted to student development through her work advising the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, her time serving as chair of the Campus Hearing Board, and her teaching for which she received the 2003 Trustees' Award for Outstanding Teaching. In recognition of her dedication to the WPI community, she received the Goat’s Head Lifetime Commitment Award from the WPI Alumni Association in 2013, among other honors.

The remainder will support undergraduate scholarships.

“Through their transformational philanthropy, these alumni and friends are helping to secure the future of WPI, and we are so grateful,” says Donna Stock, WPI’s Vice President of University Advancement. “They are ensuring that students from all walks of life have the means to access a WPI education and all it has to offer, that our world-class faculty, dedicated staff, and remarkable students can continue making a significant positive difference in the world. They have put their trust in the skilled and knowledgeable hands of President Wang to advance WPI’s distinctive STEM education, our leading-edge, purpose-driven research, and the innovative ideas that are changing our world for the better.”

Beyond These Towers, launched publicly in October 2021 at a global virtual event, positions WPI to continue to transform lives, to turn knowledge into action to confront global challenges, and to revolutionize STEM through its distinctive and inclusive education, projects, and research. The campaign’s theme is a nod to the towers of WPI’s first two buildings, enduring symbols of its guiding philosophy of theory and practice. The campaign provides opportunities for alumni and friends to fund strategic initiatives that support undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and world-changing research, global programs, facilities, and a thriving campus community.

To support Beyond These Towers: The Campaign for Worcester Polytechnic Institute, visit