Taking off: USC expands aerospace reach

Taking off: USC expands aerospace reach

Nov. 28, 2012
The next big thing in aerospace just might originate from the University of South Carolina.

USC President Harris Pastides recently announced a $5 million gift from South Carolina businesswoman and philanthropist Anita Zucker to provide support for innovation in aerospace education and workforce development.

“I have had a long working relationship with the faculty members at USC and can attest firsthand to the impact of their research. It has proven to be a tremendous benefit to our engineers and helped to improve our products,” said Zucker, chairman and CEO of The InterTech Group, owner of PBI Performance Products. “The growth of South Carolina’s economy, especially in high-tech fields, is dependent upon the development of a highly educated workforce. I’m excited to be a part of supporting the expansion of aerospace education in our state and pleased to support the McNair Center as a leader in that endeavor.”


Zucker’s donation will endow the Zucker Institute for Aerospace Innovation and the McNair Chair, a new professorship in USC’s McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research.

The McNair Chair has attracted an eminent scientist, Zafer Gürdal, from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands to serve as technical director of the McNair Center.

“Anita’s generosity and shared vision that South Carolina can advance the future of air and space flight has enabled us to recruit a world-renowned expert to lead our efforts,” Pastides said. “Dr. Gürdal is wellknown for having a rare combination of native intelligence, common sense, curiosity and interest in research. He has a great capacity for hard work and perhaps most important, the ability to lead and motivate others. He is a brilliant addition to the university’s stellar team of scientists.”

A native of Turkey, Gürdal spent nearly 20 years on the faculty of Virginia Tech developing an internationally recognized research program, with particular expertise in designing and optimizing composite materials. Since 2004 he has headed a highly successful effort at Delft University to better align the aerospace program with what students need to succeed, both in academia and industry.

“USC has a number of faculty members who are well recognized for their contributions in aerospace engineering related fields,” Gürdal said. “Unifying those activities under a unique McNair Chair umbrella and spearheading new initiatives with the faculty will be a highly rewarding experience.”

Pastides also announced a new partnership that will give USC a truly global reach in aerospace education. Academic Partnerships, headquartered in Dallas, has been tapped to support two new online educational programs that USC is developing for aerospace training.

The two new master’s programs—including the state of South Carolina’s first master’s degree in aerospace engineering—will come online in the spring. In his leadership role at the McNair Center, Gürdal will help oversee these programs as well as foster the development of two more aerospace related degree programs expected to begin enrolling students next fall.

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