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Shock the World Campaign
In This Issue

       

Computing visionary Khalid Raza shares his phenomenal success with Wichita State


Give Something Back Founder Robert Carr, left, presented an oversized check for $1 million to WSU President John Bardo and WSU Foundation Vice President Keith Pickus.
Khalid Raza has pledged $700,000 to support WSU engineering students and to honor one of his former professors. He is shown here delivering the 2016 College of Engineering commencement address.

Khalid Raza recalls having about $20 to his name when he bumped into one of his engineering professors at Wichita State and asked him about the chances of getting some work in the summer of 1991.

“Look, I’m going to get you some work for summer and fall,” Hamid Lankarani reassured Raza. “Don’t worry. I’ll help you.” Those words gave Raza the thing he needed most at that desperate moment – hope. And the graduate assistantships that followed helped him stay on course to graduate in 1992 with a master’s degree in industrial engineering.

Fast forward 25 years to 2017, the year Raza and the co-founders of a cloud-based networking company called Viptela sold it to Cisco for $610 million. Now Raza, a pioneer in developing software-defined wide area networks that provide cost-effective connectivity for businesses, wants to invest some of his wealth in projects that make the world a better place. And he hasn’t forgotten Wichita State.

Raza and his wife, Nabeela, have pledged $700,000 to support the College of Engineering in three areas: $500,000 for scholarships for high-achieving students with financial need; $100,000 to help international students attend engineering summer camps at Wichita State; and $100,000 to create a graduate assistantship named in Lankarani’s honor.

“I owe it to Wichita State,” Raza says when asked what motivated him to make the philanthropic gift. “Whatever you are in life, your educational institution had an impact. If you accomplished something, you need to give back to the institution that helped you get there.”

What has stayed with Raza through the years is the encouragement his professors provided when he was a young man, far from his home in Pakistan. “It can be tough as a student, especially an international student in a completely new culture,” he says. “When people show you compassion and empathy, it shapes you and transforms you. A university provides more than just an education. The people there change you as a human being and have a lasting impact.”

Now, Raza wants to be there for students who show great potential but face financial challenges that threaten to derail their education.

“It’s about encouraging people who want to do things in life but don’t think they have an opportunity because of the cost,” he says. “Kids like that deserve to go to college and lift their families up and contribute to society.”

Raza’s connection to Wichita State extends beyond his student days. One of his first jobs after graduating was with Cisco, an industry leader in networking. He helped the company establish a lab at Wichita State where students got hands-on experience troubleshooting and diagnosing system problems around the world.

“That lab was the first step to introducing WSU students to the larger networking world, and a lot of students ended up going to work for Cisco,” says Raza, who hopes to help the College of Engineering establish a new Cisco lab that would give today’s students similar real-world exposure. Raza has joined Cisco to help it show companies how the networking software developed by Viptela can help them.

Raza stays connected with Wichita State in other ways. He was the 2016 commencement speaker for the College of Engineering, bringing his wife and three children with him to Wichita. And he keeps in touch with his professors, including Lankarani, still on the college’s faculty and a senior fellow for the National Institute for Aviation Research.

“We are profoundly grateful for the investment Khalid and Nabeela are making in our students,” says Royce Bowden, dean of the WSU College of Engineering. “Their generosity will remove barriers impeding talented individuals from achieving their dream of a college degree. The Raza investment will yield graduates who advance economic and technological prosperity, health and well-being. It will make a positive difference.”

For more information

If you would like to learn more about establishing an engineering scholarship at Wichita State, contact Kim Bair, Sr. Director of Development (Engineering), at 316-978-3839 or kim.bair@wichita.edu.

Kim Bair