UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Building on a long history of philanthropic dedication to engineering, former Penn State faculty member Raj Mittra and his wife, Jeannette Mittra, recently committed $4 million to Penn State’s Department of Electrical Engineering.
This gift will create opportunities for faculty and students alike, as the funds will be used for the creation of four endowments: the Raj and Jeannette Mittra Enhancement Fund for the Department of Electrical Engineering; the Raj and Jeannette Mittra Endowed Chair in Electrical Engineering; the Raj and Jeannette Mittra Faculty Development Professorship in Electrical Engineering; and the Raj and Jeannette Mittra Graduate Fellowship in Electrical Engineering.
“We are extremely grateful to Raj and Jeannette Mittra for their very generous gift to endow professorships and student scholarships in the electrical engineering department at Penn State,” said Kultegin Aydin, department head and professor of electrical engineering. “These endowments will strengthen our ability to recruit and retain outstanding faculty and support talented students, as our department leads in promoting learning, discovery and innovation.”
Raj Mittra first came to Penn State to accept a position as an assistant professor in 1956, immediately after earning his doctoral degree in electrical engineering from the University of Toronto. The next year, Mittra began working at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a visiting assistant professor before being promoted to associate professor in 1961 and then full professor in 1966.
Throughout his career, Mittra has contributed immensely to the fields of electromagnetics and communications, with more than a thousand publications. He also served as adviser for more than 200 dissertations and master’s theses. Mittra also served as the director of the Electromagnetic Communication Laboratory for 25 years while at the University of Illinois.
In 1996, Mittra returned to Penn State, where he founded and became the director of the Electromagnetic Communication Laboratory. The couple moved to Florida in 2015, and Mittra still continues to conduct research from the University of Central Florida and collaborate with his colleagues at Penn State.
Mittra is a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He has served as the editor of the Transactions of the Antennas and Propagation, an IEEE journal, and has earned numerous IEEE awards including the Centennial Medal, the Millennium Medal, the Electromagnetics Award and the James H. Mulligan, Jr. Education Medal. He has served as a distinguished visiting professor at multiple universities, and he is currently the president of RM Associates, a consulting organization that provides services to industrial and governmental organizations.
Mittra’s contributions to the field of electrical engineering in general, and to the Department of Electrical Engineering at Penn State in particular, do not stop with his professional achievements. In 2013, he, with Jeannette Mittra, became the first faculty member to join the Mount Nittany Society’s Elm Circle, an honor given to those who have given a cumulative amount of $5 million or more to Penn State.
“When we arrived at Penn State 18 years ago, the idea of giving millions was nowhere on our radar,” said Mittra at the time he was inducted into the Elm Circle. “We started with a more modest amount of $2,500, which got us into the President’s Club. However, the business of gift giving can grow on you, and it certainly did for us over the years.”
The Mittras’ induction into the Elm Circle in 2013 coincided with one of their largest contributions to create the Raj and Jeannette Mittra Microwave Laboratory, where researchers have been able to study and advance the field of electromagnetics.
"This most recent commitment of $4 million ensures yet again that the lasting impact of the Mittras’ generosity will continue to shape the experiences of researchers, both faculty and students, for the better long into the future," said Aydin.
This gift will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.