An anonymous couple have given Michigan State University $2 million—the largest donation in the history of its engineering department—to endow an engineering professorship focused on bridges.
Amid concerns about the health of America’s transportation infrastructure, the donation may be part of a trend towards private funding for research. Universities have been receiving more endowments like this one over the last 10 or 15 years, says Norman Dennis, an engineering professor at the University of Arkansas who is chairman of the education committee at the American Society of Civil Engineers, told Research USA.
He says it’s partly a reaction to perceived trouble with America’s infrastructure, as highlighted by disasters such as the collapse of a bridge in Minnesota in 2007, which killed 13 people. The ASCE, a professional society, gave America’s bridges a C+ grade in its 2013 infrastructure report card. If people are passionate about a topic like infrastructure, says Dennis, universities will be looking for donations in that area.