Giving Back: Armen Avanessians and The Family of Samuel Y. Sheng
In October 2009, Dean Feniosky Peña-Mora announced that the School would augment current efforts by raising $30 million to enable the recruitment and retention of promising new faculty members who will ultimately do their best work at Columbia Engineering. Recognizing the potential impact of this ambitious plan, Armen created a fund which provided a 1:1 match for major gifts to support endowed chairs and professorships in engineering. Through this match, Armen and his family amplified the awareness of Columbia Engineering faculty as the heart of this world-class engineering school. Armen sees himself “helping Columbia Engineering take a significant step forward to fulfill its potential as one of the world’s leading engineering institutions.”
This unprecedented challenge from the Avanessians family sparked an enthusiastic response from alumni families to join in supporting faculty endowment. In one outstanding example, the family of Samuel Y. Sheng ’51 stepped up by establishing a professorship in his memory. A graduate of Columbia’s master’s program in industrial chemistry, Samuel Sheng enjoyed a long and successful career in the chemical engineering industry. Strong in philanthropy, Mr. Sheng generously supported ophthalmology research and undergraduate financial aid at Columbia University. A Samuel Y. Sheng scholarship established at Columbia Engineering in 2007 provides financial support to talented students who would otherwise forego a Columbia education.
To honor him and his commitment to Columbia Engineering, Mr. Sheng’s daughter Jean, son Kent, and daughter-in-law Lauren ’76 established the Samuel Y. Sheng Professorship to support talented faculty pursuing research in the fast-developing field of biomedical engineering. “We wanted to honor our father in a meaningful way while supporting an institution that has had such a significant impact in people’s lives,” say Jean and Kent. “Armen’s generous match made this effort to attract and support faculty talent even more rewarding,” adds Lauren Wong Sheng, a member of the School’s Board of Visitors.
Donor-funded professorships represent an extraordinary commitment to Columbia Engineering. In honoring their parents, the Avanessians and Sheng families have ensured their dedication to academic excellence and exceptional faculty achievement will leave a lasting legacy at the School of Engineering and Applied Science.