During an awards ceremony her junior year, then-West Virginia University President David C. Hardesty Jr. planted a seed in the mind of Sarah (Lovell) Soliman, who was majoring in computer engineering and biometric systems.
“He challenged me to start thinking about ways to give back to the University,” Soliman said.
On Sept. 8, that challenge was met when Soliman created a $25,000 endowment in honor of her former mentor, Dr. Wils Cooley, professor emeritus in the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. The endowment will provide scholarship assistance to engineering students interested in studying abroad.
“Dr. Cooley helped me say, ‘Yes,’ when others were saying, ‘No,’” Soliman said about her study-abroad experience in Morocco. “He helped me figure out a way to coordinate the strict and lab-intensive engineering curriculum so that I could graduate on time by getting all my study abroad credits to transfer back. He encouraged me, gave me great advice and didn’t think I was crazy.
“Studying abroad in Morocco as an undergrad is what gave me the confidence to then go on to complete graduate school in England and take my first job out of college in Iraq,” she said. “The life lessons I learned while studying abroad are an integral part of who I am today, and I wanted to be a part of helping to encourage that same self-discovery in others. I only wish I could provide a ‘Dr. Cooley’ for every engineering student who would like to study abroad.”
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Cooley. “I’m always excited when students go abroad to study but I had no idea I had made such an impact on Sarah. I’m sure she would have gone anyway even without my encouragement. I just hope her actions today encourage the next generation of our students to study abroad.”
“Dr. Cooley and I have been colleagues for many years and I always remember him as an early advocate of study abroad programs,” said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. “To see a young alum give back so generously to support scholarships for future generations of students to study abroad is inspiring. To see such scholarships provided in recognition of Dr. Cooley is most appropriate.”
Soliman works for Makarios Solutions, Inc., a defense intelligence consulting firm headquartered in Vienna, VA. She has spent time in Afghanistan working with aerial surveillance platforms and in Iraq working with the Department of Defense’s Tactical Biometric System. In the fall of 2009, she was chosen as a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow to the National Academy of Sciences and served with the Air Force Studies Board.
While working toward her master’s degree in technology policy at the University of Cambridge in England, Soliman was maxed out on loans and humbled by a gift from a pair of fellow WVU graduates who learned of her situation.
“This was an unforgettable lesson in how the Mountaineer family always takes care of each other and I promised myself to try to do for others as they had done for me.
“During my undergraduate years, I benefited immensely from numerous WVU Foundation scholarships, including the Bucklew, which made my education affordable,” Soliman said. “If I could say one thing to encourage other alumni to make a gift it would be to find a way to make the best better.”
“What you’re seeing here today is the best of higher education,” said Hardesty, now president-emeritus and a professor in the College of Law. “I think the process by which students learn about the greater world and they resolve to help others achieve the same is very inspiring. Sarah, at a very young age, has made a commitment to the future of this university. Hopefully, she will encourage others to do the same.”
The gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the private, non-profit corporation that generates, receives and administers private gifts for the benefit of WVU.
CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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