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Debendra and Katherine Das


Debendra and Katherine Das Mechanical Engineering and Visual Arts Scholarships

Debendra Das, professor of mechanical engineering at UAF, started this scholarship for mechanical engineering students in 2004. He greatly admires the one to one matching grant program offered by UAF Chancellor Marshall Lind, which helped this scholarship. When he received the Usibelli Distinguished Teaching Award in 2012, he donated the entire 10k award to this fund.

Deben holds a BS degree from the National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, India, a master’s degree from Brown University and a doctorate degree from University of Rhode Island, all in mechanical engineering.

Deben Das and Katherine Cross-Das arrived in Fairbanks in fall 1984 with their son, Sunit, when Deben joined the faculty of the mechanical engineering department at UAF as an assistant professor . Over the years, the Das family became a strong supporter of UAF, appreciating the education of Sunit and his wife, Michelle, at UAF. Having served on the scholarship committee in the engineering department for many years, Deben soon realized that the mechanical engineering department was woefully short of scholarships. The Das family decided to offer a scholarship to mechanical engineering majors. Deben had firsthand knowledge of the hard work and dedication needed to graduate as the valedictorian of his engineering university in India. Therefore, they established the Debendra and Katherine Das scholarship to honor and reward a mechanical engineering senior each year who holds the highest GPA. Over the years, their focus has changed and now this scholarship aims at helping students more on financial need and attracting underrepresented minority to mechanical engineering.

Deben’s accolades continued after achieving Valedictorian as a student. Deben received the 2012 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching Award. In addition to his excellence in teaching, Deben’s contributions in the area of student mentorship and involving them in his research have been extraordinary. Over the years, Das has been recognized for his work as an advisor, including the UAF Carol Feist Outstanding Advisor Award in both 2003-2004 and 2005-2006. In 2006, he received the national Student Section Advisor Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and, in 2007, the ASME Dedicated Service Award. Deben’s efforts also extended to the Fairbanks community. In 2005 he was elected president of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Fairbanks Chapter, and then received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Alaska Chapter for his service to the board on NAMI Fairbanks Affiliate for his 14 years of service.

The Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Public Service Awards are considered one of the university’s most prestigious awards. They represent UAF’s tripartite mission and are funded annually from a $600,000 endowment established by Usibelli Coal Mine in 1992. Each year, a committee that includes members from the faculty, the student body and a member of the UA Foundation Board of Trustees evaluates the nominees. Each of the winners receives a cash award of $10,000.

With continued contributions every year, the principal of this scholarship grew, so in 2015 the Das family proposed to award two scholarships of equal amount; one to a mechanical engineering student and the other to a visual arts student. This was the desire of Katherine, an artist who holds a master’s degree in the English literature from the University of Rhode Island. In their early years at UAF, Katherine and Sunit had spent many hours taking a variety of arts classes. Their potteries are still used in Das Family. Summers of Sunit were occupied by participation in the Fine Arts Camp. This visual arts scholarship brings to fruition the love of art for Katherine.

If you are interested in supporting students through the student opportunity fund(s) that this donor supports, please note the fund name(s) from the scholarship list below within the gift designation section at: Give Now.