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Jeffrey R. Westphal

Catalyst for Innovation and Immersive Experiences

A generous gift from Jeffrey R. “Jeff” Westphal made in honor of his father, Rainer (Ray) J. Westphal ’59, HD ’02, will help to advance critical areas of the University’s strategic plan, “Drexel 2030: Designing the Future.

A champion of experiential, multi-disciplinary learning, Jeff Westphal is a strong supporter of Drexel’s hands-on approach to education. His gift will help to establish the Innovation Engine, an initiative that will support the integration of experiential learning, curricular innovation, research and interdisciplinary solutions across Drexel. The Engine will be led by the Office of the Provost in collaboration with the Drexel Solutions Institute (DSI) and will be co-designed with the Drexel community.

Paul Jensen
Paul E. Jensen, PhD, executive vice president and Nina Henderson Provost

For much of Drexel’s history, our approach to external partnership has focused primarily on six-month co-op experiences for students, without a formal mechanism for cultivating and expanding these relationships into academics, research and innovation across the University. The launch of the Drexel Solutions Institute was an important step in the University’s evolution, establishing a central unit to facilitate comprehensive, interdisciplinary partnerships.

“The Engine will build upon the work of DSI and our strategic plan by bringing together teams of students, faculty and external partners to develop projects shaped by student interests, faculty expertise and partner needs,” said Paul E. Jensen, PhD, executive vice president and Nina Henderson Provost. “We look forward to working with the full Drexel community to realize the incredible potential of the Innovation Engine and our strategic plan more broadly.”

The first year of the Engine will be focused on planning and scaling operations, including building an internal and external advisory board, outlining milestones for the coming fiscal year and launching projects that expand support for faculty innovation in research and teaching. Members of the Drexel community will be invited to provide insight and feedback on these milestones and initials projects. With Jeff’s initial investment, we have already begun to recruit new business development and communications staff to articulate the University’s research and development, innovation and talent capabilities to external partners.

Serving as head of the Engine initiative for the Provost’s Office will be Raj Suri, PhD, who has served as interim senior vice provost for academic-industry partnerships for the past two years. During this time, Raj has also led the research and curricular innovation arm of the Solutions Institute and served as Vice Dean for Research in the LeBow College of Business. In the coming months, Raj will transition to full-time in the Provost’s Office, where he will continue to facilitate the integration of experiential learning, interdisciplinary research and partner solutions for the University.

The Innovation Engine will build upon the work of the Drexel Solutions Institute and our strategic plan by bringing together teams of students, faculty and external partners to develop projects shaped by student interests, faculty expertise and partner needs.

Jeff’s parents, Ray and Antoinette Westphal, have supported many of the University’s advances. In 2005, Ray Westphal made a significant pledge in support of Drexel’s College of Media Arts & Design, which later was named after Ray’s wife, Antoinette Westphal ’59, HD ’02. At the time, the gift was the largest single private donation in Drexel’s history.

In 2020, Jeff Westphal helped grow the Sabinson Technology Fund Challenge, which supports technology enhancements at the Westphal College. Earlier this year, Jeff’s gift to the University established the Drexel University Reisman Center for Translational Research in Creativity and Motivation, in honor of Fredricka (Freddie) Reisman, professor emerita and the founder of the Drexel School of Education.

Raj Suri
Raj Suri, PhD, interim senior vice provost for academic-industry partnerships

The development of the Innovation Engine concept was itself a multidisciplinary collaboration, putting the principles of the Engine into practice.  Actively engaged in the process and central to its development were Raj Suri, Anna Koulas, vice president of DSI, Jason Schupbach, dean of the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, and the Provost’s Solutions Fellows, including faculty members Lauren D'Innocenzo (organizational behavior and management), Hasan Ayaz (biomedical engineering and neuro-ergonomics), Michael Lowe (psychology) and Ann Gerondelis (design). 

This gift contributes significantly to the success of the historic Campaign for Drexel, The Future Is a Place We Make. Ahead of its close on June 30, 2022, our fundraising and engagement campaign has exceeded its ambitious goals, raising more than $775 million to support student success, pioneering teaching, high-impact basic and translational research and civic engagement, and actively engaging more than 40,000 alumni.

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The Future is a Place We Make: The Campaign for Drexel