University of Houston renames building after Indian Americans Durga and Sushila Agrawal

Sushila and Durga Agrawal. Photo courtesy of University of Houston.

The renaming of the $51 million building is to recognize a gift for an undisclosed amount from the couple.

The University of Houston will rename an engineering building that opened last year after Indian American couple Durga Agrawal and his wife, Sushila, the university said.

The renaming of the $51 million building as the Durga D. and Sushila Agrawal Engineering Research Building is to recognize a gift for an undisclosed amount from the couple that will support faculty, students, research and building operations, the school said.

The building already had a floor named after the Agrawals.

Durga D. Agrawal is the founder of Piping Technology & Products Inc., which provides industrial and construction products and services.

RELATED: Two Indian American families in Texas help build $51 million research facility on University of Texas (December 22, 2014)

He came to Houston in 1968 after earning a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Delhi College of Engineering to enroll for master’s at the university’s Cullen College of Engineering. Upon completion of the master’s, he went to do a Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Cullen College in 1974.

Since his student days, Durga Agrawal has a long record of involvement as a university benefactor.

Currently, he is a member of the university’s System Board of Regents. He has also served as a vice chair of the Academic and Student Success Committee and a member of the Endowment Management Committee.

His eldest daughter, Anu, who also graduated in engineering from the university, serves on the Engineering Leadership Board of the Cullen College.

In a 2015 interview with the University of Houston Magazine, Agrawal, who grew up with two brothers and three sisters, spoke about his humble background.

“My high school was 13 miles away from home,” he said. “There were times in the rainy season when we would have to cross the rivers by boat because of flooding. Sometimes the level would be so high, we had to spend the night nearby until the water went down for the boats to cross.”

RELATED: Indian American donors gave more than $1.2 billion to US universities, colleges: report (September 26, 2018)

He also spoke about the influence his family had in shaping him. “My parents played a major role in teaching me the values of giving and being a kind person,” he said. “Also, I learned business skills by working in our family business. I am very thankful to my parents for their vision in sending me abroad for studies.”

This week, Agrawal, a former member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, had a positive message for the students as well as alumni.

“My message to the students is to always be optimistic; one can achieve any goal with hard work, persistence and determination,” he said. “As alumni, we must keep the torch of knowledge, excellence and innovation growing and glowing.”

Joseph W. Tedesco, Elizabeth D. Rockwell Dean of the Cullen College, termed the Agrawals’ gift as “nothing short of transformational.”

He said: “It will allow us to expand and enhance our laboratory and classroom facilities, recruit some of the world’s greatest engineering minds as students and faculty members, and develop new and innovative academic programs. This gift will boost our capacity to conduct research that directly impacts the quality of life across the greater Houston area and beyond.”

According to vice president of University Advancement Eloise Brice, the gift will help meet a number of objectives. “Recruiting the best and brightest students and faculty is a key goal for the University of Houston, and this generous gift will allow the Cullen College of Engineering to make great strides in that arena,” he said. “The ability to improve our research and academic facilities made possible by the Agrawals will ultimately benefit the state of Texas and the nation.”

In the 2015 interview, Agrwal spoke fondly about his early days at University of Houston. “UH was a unique place where I was able to continue my studies and support my family,” he said. “UH makes this possible — to go to school and have a part-time job. UH creates hardworking, critical thinkers with a ‘can do’ attitude. I had no idea Houston would become my home when I arrived from India in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Delhi College of Engineering.”

The president and chancellor of the University of Houston System is Indian American Renu Khator.

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