NYU School of Engineering Gala Raises Scholarship Funds and Pays Tribute to Engineering Leaders

NEW YORK—The New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering honored two noteworthy leaders of industry and education during its annual gala in support of scholarships last night at the Pierre Hotel Grand Ballroom in Manhattan.  The event recognized Steve Holliday, the chief executive officer of National Grid, with the Leadership Award for contributions that have significantly impacted the field of engineering. Dr. Irving Pressley McPhail, the president and CEO of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), received the Vision Award for his pioneering leadership in helping underrepresented minority men and women achieve their dreams of becoming engineers.

Proceeds from the 2014 NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering Gala benefitted the Promise Scholarship Fund, which has raised millions of dollars in the 26 years since its inception and has helped thousands of the brightest students from around the world to earn degrees at the school. Most Promise Scholars are from groups traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; many are the children of immigrants and the first in their families to attend college. All recipients demonstrate extraordinary promise. 

“National Grid and NACME have long been dedicated supporters of the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering and its Promise Fund,” said NYU Dean of Engineering Katepalli Sreenivasan. “We are proud that they share our mission of educating a new generation of young engineers and feel confident that our Promise Scholars will go on to make invaluable contributions to the field of engineering and the world.”

In his remarks, McPhail announced that NACME will continue its scholarship support for another five years through the NACME Scholars program, with a grant of $300,000. Since 2004, the organization has supported the education of 235 students at the school, and nearly all 44 current NACME undergraduates of the School of Engineering were on hand for the announcement.

National Grid is one of the school’s most active and loyal supporters. In addition to funding Promise Fund scholarships, it recruits students, employs hundreds of alumni, supports the Center for K-12 STEM Education, is a founding supporter of the New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Resilient Economy at the school, and sponsors research—representing more than $2 million since 1979.  Rudolph Wynter, National Grid’s president of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission-Regulated Businesses, serves as a trustee on the School of Engineering’s advisory board.

In addition to his role at National Grid, Holliday is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, chairman of the board of the U.K. homeless charity Crisis, and a non-executive member of the board of the retailer Marks & Spencer. He is also a trustee director for Business in the Community, chairing its leadership and skills team, and is the national business ambassador for the Prince of Wales. He holds a degree in mining engineering from Nottingham University in England, and his sporting interests include following the fortunes of the England national rugby team.

NACME has supported scholarships and has rigorously mentored undergraduates at the School of Engineering, helping to prepare them for successful careers upon graduation.  Under McPhail, NACME has been leading and supporting the national effort to expand U.S. capability by increasing the number of successful African American, American Indian, and Latino women and men in STEM education and careers. Prior to NACME, McPhail served as chancellor of the Community College of Baltimore County, president of St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, president of LeMoyne-Owen College,  and chief operating officer of the Baltimore City Public Schools, in addition to holding tenured faculty positions. The son of an upholsterer and a homemaker, McPhail grew up in Harlem. He earned an academic scholarship to Cornell University and a master's degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and was a National Fellowships Fund Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his doctorate in reading/language arts. Among his many honors, he was awarded an honorary doctorate (2010) from what was then the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

Steve Holliday commented: “National Grid has been a long-time partner with NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering and is a proud supporter of the Promise Fund. I would like to thank the school for this recognition, and accept it on behalf of all my colleagues at National Grid. We need to see a dramatic increase in the number of engineers, particularly from underrepresented areas such as females and minorities, if we are to continue to grow the economy and address the global energy and environmental challenges of the 21st Century.”

“I am profoundly honored to be recognized by NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering with the Vision Award,” said McPhail. “This award recognizes my historic commitment to diversity with equity in all aspects of education, with a particular focus on STEM education and workforce development for underrepresented minority students.  I also accept this award on behalf of my organization, the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering. The significance of this recognition, during our 40th anniversary year, is an indicator of how NACME has contributed to the growth of the number of African Americans, American Indians, and Latinos in the STEM workforce. The NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering has been a very important partner institution for 10 years. Through this partnership, we have been able to help more than 200 students graduate and achieve distinguished careers in engineering, and this is what I am most proud of.”

Holliday and McPhail join a noteworthy list of Promise Fund Gala honorees. They have included Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox; Glenn Britt, former CEO of Time Warner Cable; Arthur Martinez, former CEO of Sears, Roebuck & Co; and engineering innovator and philanthropist Paul Soros.

Carmen Wong Ulrich, the host of NPR’s MarketplaceMoney and an industry professor of finance and risk engineering at the NYU School of Engineering, served as the emcee for this year’s event.

The NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering has a long history of educating students to assume vital technical positions upon graduation. More than 40 percent of the school’s undergraduates are the first in their families to attend college, and the school regularly ranks among the top 10 in the country for the high salaries of its baccalaureate graduates.