A Lasting Legacy

Kenneth Brayer, MS’65

Kenneth Brayer’s contributions to the field of electrical engineering span far beyond his prolific work in communications, computing and networking. A strong advocate of the importance of good education, Kenneth not only held numerous degrees and certificates himself, but he also served as an instructor and mentor throughout his professional career.

In the words of his work associate Linsey O’Brien: “From his own experience, Ken knew the value of education and shared it…his advice to colleagues on the value of education were as appreciated as his major contributions to the field of engineering.”

Kenneth Brayer passed away on January 24, 2015. At Columbia, his legacy will continue on, not only in the form of his technical achievements which helped shape the information age, but also in in the form of an electrical engineering professorship. By naming Columbia Engineering one of the beneficiaries of his estate, Kenneth was able to create an endowed professorship, ensuring that future faculty members will have critical support to pursue transformational research and to teach the next generation of engineers.

Faculty members who are appointed to this chair will pursue interdisciplinary approaches to improve the human condition and increase the School’s international reach and reputation. These distinguished researchers will include some of the Columbia’s leading teachers and mentors to undergraduate students, just as Kenneth was himself. This type of endowed support is vital to ensuring that Columbia remains a thriving, world renowned research and educational institution.

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Engineering Education for All

Ms. Grace Wu BS’00 and Mr. Jerry Pi

“Engineering as a field relies on a diverse set of people and ideas coming together to solve problems. That’s why diversity is so critical,” –Grace Wu

In the spring of 2017, Grace and her husband, Jerry Pi, endowed the Grace and Jerry Pi Family Scholarship Fund to financially support students from underrepresented groups. Says Grace, “We want to foster and provide opportunity for minority students because someone is out there with a great idea, and we want that person to come to Columbia Engineering.”

As the recipient of the Weinig Scholarship while at Columbia, Grace saw first-hand the importance of philanthropy. The undergraduate education that Grace received, specifically in the areas of management science and economics, catapulted her into a successful lifelong career in finance, where she was most recently the head of Risk Management at Barclays Capital. Grace currently manages a senior portfolio of projects at Pi Capital Partners, one of the largest private family real estate portfolios in New York City, which was co-founded by her husband, Jerry.

Grace and Jerry continue to be impressed by the way the School is constantly re-inventing itself, expanding and growing into new areas. Jerry points out that this environment creates a “great opportunity for new solutions to big challenges.” Addressing real-world problems was made a top priority for the School with the launch of Dean Mary Boyce’s progressive vision, Columbia Engineering for Humanity. Within this framework, Columbia Engineering strives to bring its research and education impact to the most pressing needs to benefit humanity.

In addition to her family's philanthropic commitments to Columbia, Grace is a leader in the alumni community, serving on the Engineering Development Council and Columbia College's Alumnae Leadership Circle.

If Grace could give anyone advice about philanthropy it would be that “it’s never too early or too late to start. Find a cause that you’re passionate about and learn how you can make a difference. At Columbia, there are so many different programs; you can easily connect with one that resonates with you.”

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