Lehigh University alumnus Charles S. Strauch and his wife, Nan, donated $5.5 million to the school to establish a program to elevate and enhance its engineering offerings.
The Strauchs, both longtime supporters of Lehigh, made the gift to the Bethlehem university’s P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, a center for engineering students. The gift will create the Charles S. Strauch and Nan Strauch Endowed Deanship, with the goal of attracting a new dean to leverage the funds to support engineering research, teaching and learning.
Charles Strauch, a Lehigh graduate from 1957, said both he and his wife share a belief in the power of education to change lives.
“It certainly starts with our commitment to education,” Strauch said. “We worked very hard for our money and made our money in corporate America. We’ve been very lucky, so we accumulated some wealth.”
Having been founding trustees and the primary benefactors of Vermont’s Landmark College, an institution for young adults with learning disabilities, Strauch said he is actively involved in promoting public school choice for children in kindergarten through 12th grade.
He serves on the board of the New York-based Success Academy, a network of 36 charter schools. Several years ago, the Strauchs sponsored a campus visit to Lehigh for 700 Success Academy scholars and parents to show them what engineering education looks like, he said. Lehigh does a great job in teaching engineering but could do better, particularly in today’s high-tech world, he said.
“The gift is very clearly aimed at the belief that we’ve got to get Lehigh better connected in a high-tech world,” Strauch said. “Let’s educate them so their education is relevant in today’s world. It’s become a global market. You’ve gotta be able to compete.”
The gift, which Strauch described as a pledge, is front-end loaded, meaning it is intended to attract a dean, whom would start at Lehigh in July. Though the details are not firm, most of the funds would be used in five years. The idea is to have money in a pot that the dean can use for research, seminars, etc., he added.
“I’m an engineer and I love engineering,” Strauch said. “I think it’s the future of our country. A lot of first-generation immigrants are coming here to learn engineering. I think it’s very healthy that people come here.”
Strauch earned his bachelor of science in industrial engineering from Lehigh and is one of six in a three-generation family who attended the university. An entrepreneur and businessman in the tech sector, he owns three companies.