The seeds of Cynthia Calabrese’s loyalty to Wentworth were planted in 2002, when her son Andrew began his first year as a student at the Institute.
“Wentworth was extremely helpful in providing us with financial assistance,” says Calabrese. “We were worried about space in the residence hall, and that issue was taken care of promptly. Yet it was more than that. Everyone showed a very caring attitude toward helping us during our difficult time. I said that if I ever had a chance to give back, I would.”
After both Andrew (AMET ’04, BMET ’06) and another son, Timothy (BCMT ’11), had graduated from Wentworth, Calabrese got that chance when she met her partner, software engineer and entrepreneur Mark Gelfand. In 2006, Gelfand established the Gelfand Family Charitable Trust, which is focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.
After learning more about Wentworth from Calabrese, Gelfand took a closer look at making a contribution to the Institute.
The Gelfand Family Charitable Trust’s latest gift to Wentworth is a $1.25 million contribution to fund the Gelfand Strength of Materials Lab (see story, page 6). The gift funds the purchase of new equipment as well as support for equipment maintenance.
“When I first met [Wentworth President] Zorica [Pantić], I asked her what the school needed most,” remembers Calabrese, who along with Gelfand, was awarded an honorary doctorate from Wentworth in 2013. “Where could the money be used that would be most beneficial to Wentworth?”
“When I found out that Wentworth was looking to upgrade its materials testing lab, I jumped at the chance to participate,” says Gelfand, noting that as a youngster, his love of engineering was sparked by his uncle Len, an engineer at Cleveland-based ERICO Products.
“I was intrigued by his tales and home movies of his thermite welding inventions, experimental tests, and sales presentations,” he says. “Never would the weld break before the rebar, no matter the size of the test objects, some of which were massive and dangerous.”
During high school and as an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University, Gelfand worked summers at the ERICO factory, as well as at USS Steel blast furnaces near Pittsburgh. “These experiences were key to my understanding of manufacturing and automation, which helped me design complex automated valuation modeling systems,” Gelfand says. “The factory experiences also prepared me for my current roles as a hands-on scientific/engineering products
investor and as a founder of technical centers and factories in East Africa.”
The new Gelfand Strength of Materials Lab triples the size of the previous lab, and features new equipment as well as modernized machinery from the existing lab. The new space, along with the Manufacturing Center, which opened in 2011, and the new Altschuler Computer Center, composes the High-Tech Highway through Williston, Wentworth, and Dobbs Halls.
“The excitement for me comes in the fact that through the generosity of Mr. Gelfand, I could have a dream realized—the dream that I echoed years ago, that if I ever had the chance to give back to Wentworth, that I would do so,” Calabrese says. “Of course, I never thought that I would be able to take part in a project as grand as the Strength of Materials Lab.”