Wayne State University will soon have more engineering scholarships and a new structures and materials engineering testing laboratory in Highland Park thanks to a $5 million donation from two alumni.
Local business leader and philanthropist Avinash Rachmale, M.S. ’89, and his wife, Hema Rachmale, Cert. ’92, made the donation to the Wayne State University College of Engineering under the auspices of The N. Rachmale Foundation.
“The first employees I hired were Wayne State engineering students,” Avinash says. “And I have roots at Wayne State and Detroit that go back more than 30 years. I owe so much to this city and university. It is my honor to give back to College of Engineering students, especially those who want to make a difference in Detroit.”
Of the total, $1 million is for an endowed scholarship fund, the Rachmale Detroit Engineering Scholars Program. That program annually incentivizes five high-performing students from Detroit Public Schools Community District to attend Wayne State’s College of Engineering and assists them in the transition from high school achievement to career success.
The remaining $4 million will build the 8,000-square-foot N. Rachmale Foundation Structures and Materials Laboratory in Highland Park, which is expected to be completed in 2020. The lab will provide civil engineering students and faculty with opportunities to engage in large-scale, real-world structures and materials testing projects. It will feature a strong floor, strong wall, office spaces, restrooms, safety shower, spaces for testing machines, storage, hydraulic power units, and an environmental chamber.
Structures and materials testing is essential to verify and understand the behavior of key infrastructure components such as bridges, roads and buildings. The College of Engineering has been unable to pursue projects involving key civil structural components because Wayne State’s on-campus civil engineering testing facilities have restricted access to the large trucks needed to transport products like steel and concrete bridge girders, bridge decks, pipes, and steel and fiber-reinforced polymer rebar,.
“The facility will potentially be used by agencies including the Michigan Department of Transportation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and corporate partners of the college,” says Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the College of Engineering. “Our new laboratory will have state-of-the-art testing equipment we can use to assess characteristics like tensile and compressive strength and evaluate various materials’ performance under specific temperature and humidity conditions.”
Avinash received a bachelor’s in civil engineering from the Government College of Engineering in Aurangabad, India, in 1985 before moving to the United States and earning his master’s in civil engineering at Wayne State.
In 1994, he founded Lakeshore Engineering Services in Detroit, which assessed, cleaned and replaced fuel storage tanks at 200 service stations with only one employee — Avinash — on staff. Lakeshore Engineering became one of the country’s leading civil engineering and public works contractors, and in 2010 it acquired TolTest, another leader in worldwide construction management services. The new entity was renamed Lakeshore TolTest, and Avinash served as its CEO.
Since 2015, he has served as CEO and chair of LGC Global, an engineering firm headquartered on Woodward Ave. in the New Center area. LGC Global has more than 500 employees in more than 40 offices worldwide. The company’s projects include the renovation of several Detroit Public Schools Community District buildings, national and international infrastructure, and residential and commercial development.
Avinash received the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Champion Award for Entrepreneurial Success in 2009 in recognition of Lakeshore Engineering’s innovation and community investment during the country’s economic recovery. In addition to being a longtime supporter of Wayne State, he is an active contributor to Detroit-based nonprofits that assist children in underserved populations.
“We are incredibly grateful to Avinash and Hema for their continued support of Wayne State University,” says Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson. “Their gifts will enhance the study of civil engineering at Wayne State for generations to come, helping us recruit top talent and forge new relationships with government agencies as well as private companies. This is a perfect example of a pivotal moment made possible through philanthropic support.”
The gift is “a fitting bookend to Wayne State University’s Pivotal Moments campaign,” the university says. The campaign has raised a total of $776.5 million, making it the most successful in Wayne State’s 150-year history. It closed Oct. 26, the date of the university’s sesquicentennial.