Retired IBM executive creates scholarship for Penn State Behrend students

ERIE, Pa. — When Nishi Gupta began her studies at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, in 1978, she was one of just a handful of female students enrolled in the college’s engineering program.

The support, experiences and education she received during her two years at Penn State Behrend put Gupta on the path to a Penn State degree in mechanical engineering and a successful career with IBM. She retired from the multinational technology company as a vice president in December 2016.

Her fondness for Penn State Behrend has remained through the years.

“I grew up in Erie, and Penn State Behrend was an important part of my life,” Gupta said. “Behrend is part of what I consider home.”

Deepening her connection to the college is the fact that Gupta’s father, who earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Penn State, taught graduate engineering classes at Penn State Behrend for many years.

To recognize the formative role Penn State Behrend played in her life, Gupta has created a $50,000 scholarship, with a $50,000 match by the University, to benefit engineering students who show exceptional academic promise and demonstrate financial need. Preference will be given to students who are members of Penn State Behrend’s Society of Women Engineers.

The Nishi Gupta Scholarship in Engineering was created through the University’s First-Time Endowed Scholarship Donor Matching Program, which provides a 1:1 permanent match for gifts from donors who are establishing their first undergraduate scholarship endowments at Penn State. 

“I have regularly donated to the University through the years,” said Gupta, who now lives in Indianapolis. “But as I looked forward, I wanted to do more to provide opportunities to future scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, especially for women, where possible.”

Penn State is one of the top 10 schools in the country for the number of engineering degrees awarded to women, according to the American Society for Engineering Education. But there is still work to be done: Nationwide, women are awarded only about 20 percent of the bachelor’s degrees in engineering each year. Today, Penn State Behrend’s School of Engineering enrolls more than 200 female students, and the number continues to climb.

Gupta said she hopes her scholarship offers support and encouragement to future generations of Penn State Behrend engineering students — the same advocacy she says was so important to her on her educational journey.

“Penn State Behrend opened up a world of opportunity to me, and I want to do what I can to give that same opportunity to the next generation,” she said. “I hope recipients of this scholarship will take the opportunity to explore new topics of interest, grow their skills, and fulfill their potential for leadership and service.”

Gifts from Penn State’s alumni and friends have been essential to the success of the University’s land-grand mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University has launched “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives of a public university: Private support will keep the doors to higher education open to hard-working students regardless of financial well-being; create transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impact the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit