Postgraduate students spend years focused on developing a deep understanding of their field. By the time they present their dissertation, doctoral candidates are among the world’s most knowledgeable people in their specialties with a vision of where future advances in their field will be made. Because of this, they are critical contributors to scientific discovery, especially in a university setting.
This level of education comes at a cost. Equipment and materials are expensive, and, in an industrial setting, doctoral candidates would be compensated for the time they spend on research.
For more than 10 years, the Joseph and Shirley Carleone Endowed Fellowship Fund has provided financial assistance based on academic merit and financial need to postgraduate students in the College of Engineering. The award, named for its benefactor, three-time Drexel graduate Joseph Carleone BS ’68, MS ’70, PhD ’72, Carleone says that one of the best aspects of his postgraduate experience was the ability to work directly with mentors.
“You could get a lot of personal attention from the professors, helping you with research and so forth,” he recalls. “You weren't just another number, and in my visits there, I see that the program is still very, very, personal, and that’s something I want to emphasize.”
Carleone, who has been a longtime supporter of the College, says that he decided to focus his philanthropy on doctoral students when he realized that many of the funding programs that helped him earn his own PhD were no longer available.
“I was able to do my PhD because of what was, at the time, called the National Defense Education Act,” he says. “The government provided fellowships that covered all your tuition costs, plus gave you a monthly stipend to help with your living expenses. But over the years, those public grants were fewer and fewer, and we weren't recruiting as many PhDs because of it. So that’s when I decided that that would be a good place to start focusing my donations.”
Beyond the ability to concentrate on exploration into a single subject, Carleone sees many benefits to doctoral-level education. His own career has taken him to success in engineering and business. He is currently Chairman of Avid Bioservices, a publicly traded contract manufacturer of biological pharmaceutical ingredients. He has also served as president and chief executive officer of American Pacific Corporation, president of Aerojet Fine Chemicals and vice president of Aerojet’s Tactical and Defense Rocket Motor Programs, among other positions. He has led organizations with thousands of employees, driven hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales, and served on prestigious boards. Carleone says that the training he received in his doctoral program prepared him with wide-ranging skills he could apply to any position.
“Even if your life’s work isn’t always directly related to your PhD area of focus, you’ll have that base of knowledge that allows you to be a good manager and leader,” he says. “I was trained as a mechanical engineer, but my career has taken me to chemical pharmaceuticals, micro-electronics and even rocket motors. You have this basic background that allows you to transition into business. The other thing the PhD experience brings you is a level of discipline and preparedness. You get accustomed to doing the research and digging into things and not taking for granted that you just know it.”
Partnering with Drexel, Carleone also recently established the Carleone Matching Gift Challenge to accelerate support for PhD students. Gifts and pledges to the Campaign for Drexel that are designated for support of College of Engineering PhD fellowships will be matched by the Carleones through June 2023, up to $120,000.
“Year after year, Drexel produces high-achieving doctoral students,” Carleone says. “We should be doing everything we can to ensure that this opportunity is available for more and more students for years to come.”