Dr. Satish Saxena once watched one of his professors call his wife at 6:00 p.m. to tell her he was so engaged in his work that he couldn’t be home for dinner. He continued working until 2:00 a.m.
This passion and dedication inspired Dr. Saxena. He believes the professorship he recently endowed in the College of Engineering’s Department of Chemical Engineering will attract a similarly passionate and dedicated scientist to inspire students and conduct groundbreaking research.
“Talented and devoted professors are key to the success of a department,” says Dr. Saxena, who is now retired and enjoying travel and time with family. “And departments need significant distinctions to attract these leaders. A professorship provides that distinction.”
Passionate and dedicated accurately describe Dr. Saxena as well. He earned his PhD at 22 in India; spent time at the University of Maryland in College Park, Columbia and Yale, and later as a Professor at Purdue University; has consulted with NASA; earned Fulbright Awards and much more. His longest tenure – more than 30 years – is at UIC, where he applied the fundamental principles of physics and chemistry to important chemical engineering problems, taught graduate and undergraduate courses and advised 22 doctoral and 57 master’s degree students. He and his wife, Asha, created the Dr. Satish C. Saxena Professorship in Chemical Engineering Fund through a $500,000 endowment pledge. It is the first professorship in Chemical Engineering.
“We plan to recruit several new faculty members over the next few years, and the ability to offer an endowed professorship will help us attract them,” says Sohail Murad, PhD, who heads the department. “Strategic hires can raise the department’s ranking, attract talented students, and boost the morale of current students and faculty, who can be proud of their department and its influence.”
Pete Nelson, dean of the college, agrees. “It is tremendously meaningful to have one of our emeriti faculty passionate enough about the college’s mission to support it with a major gift like this,” he says.
“I believe very, very much that UIC is a good place to invest,” says Dr. Saxena. He supports this by noting UIC’s unique urban location, which gives the college and its internship- and job-seeking students a beneficial relationship with industry. He’s also enthusiastic about the college’s required, two-year core academic program, in which students attain a broad-based and multi-faceted understanding of engineering as a whole.
Dr. Saxena anticipates the impact of his gift showing itself in the thousands of students a gifted professor will influence over the course of his or her tenure. He sees those students completing impressive academic work, earning graduate degrees and moving into professions where they’ll make important discoveries. Added to this are the research accomplishments, grant money and talented students that come with the renowned professor who will hold this distinction.
He adds, “I’m hoping very much to see others follow, and create professorships themselves.”