Lewis R Lo

Anonymous $1M Cash Gift to Establish Scholarships Honoring First Black Graduate at Purdue

Oct. 2, 2020
The diversity in engineering scholarship endowment is named in memory of alumnus David Robert Lewis, who graduated from Purdue with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1894.

An anonymous $1 million cash gift from a member of the Purdue University College of Engineering community will establish scholarships named in honor of the college’s first Black graduate as an impetus to energize and expand ongoing support to recruit and retain Black engineering students. This gift extends a trend that has seen the total number of endowed scholarships for underrepresented minorities surge since 2013—from 43 to 140 as of Aug. 31 —with committed dollars quadrupling from $4.7 million to $17.2 million.

The new diversity in engineering scholarship endowment is named in memory of alumnus David Robert Lewis, who graduated from Purdue with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1894. A native of Greensburg, Indiana, Lewis was one of only nine Black students who graduated from Indiana colleges between the Civil War and the year 1900. The new Lewis diversity scholarship also builds on the College of Engineering’s legacy of improving diversity and inclusion at Purdue.

The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) was conceived and founded at Purdue in 1975, launching a national model to help improve the recruitment and retention of Black engineering students. Similarly, Purdue’s Minority Engineering Program (MEP), which started in 1974, was instrumental in the establishment of the national launch of NSBE. MEP is another of several initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion in the College of Engineering. About 3% of Purdue students are Black or African American.

The Lyles School of Civil Engineering has long honored Lewis’s legacy as a Purdue pioneer by celebrating his memory, courage, and accomplishments—including his Purdue thesis, "Highway Road Construction,” which reviewed European road-building practices. Lewis went on to become an educator and businessman. Lewis’s legacy also lives on in family members who live in Indianapolis. 

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