Alumnus Nick Des Champs and wife Rebecca Des Champs of Las Vegas, Nevada have donated $2 million to establish a faculty chair in the Department of Mechanical Engineering within Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering.
Des Champs’ gift creates a generous fund under the direction of Azim Eskandarian, who now holds the designation of Nicholas and Rebecca Des Champs Chair in Mechanical Engineering.
“I am humbled, honored, and thankful to have received this professorship as the department head of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech. On behalf of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and myself, I would like to express our deepest appreciation to Nick Des Champs, Becky Des Champs, and their family for this generous gift and the opportunities it creates for our department and students,” Eskandarian said. “This is setting a new legacy under their name for new discovery and findings and training students in our department.”
The gift comes at a time of substantial momentum for the department, which has continued to see the largest enrollment growth of any of the departments in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering over the past 10 years.
“We are extremely grateful for the generosity of Nick and Becky Des Champs,” said Julia M. Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering. “The gift will certainly enhance the nationally ranked department as it pursues cutting-edge student and faculty research in focus areas like energy engineering and science, robotics and autonomous systems, additive manufacturing research, and nuclear engineering.”
Video cut by my media production intern. Interview conducted by me.
With more than 1,100 undergraduates enrolled in mechanical engineering, the department is the largest specialized undergraduate program within the college. The undergraduate mechanical engineering program is ranked 14th nationally, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 list. The undergraduate experience is buoyed by the department’s two-semester senior design capstone projects, about a quarter of which are sponsored by corporate entities.
In 2017, the department saw nearly $18 million in research expenditures. Over the past five years, the department’s more than 60 faculty have netted 546 research awards from a wide array of federal and non-federal sources, including the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and NASA.
“Des Champs’ gift will give us opportunities and resources which we did not have before to start research in very exciting and new areas,” Eskandarian said.
Des Champs’ gift will also help Eskandarian advance numerous departmental priorities, such as promoting graduate student success, funding scholarships, and increasing departmental rankings.
“Our mechanical engineering department has always been up near the top in the country, and I’d like to see it stay that way,” Des Champs said.
Des Champs enjoyed a distinguished career in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, or HVAC, industry after earning his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in mechanical engineering in 1962 and 1967, respectively.
Des Champs has a long history of generous support for Virginia Tech and is a member of the university’s Ut Prosim, 1872, and Pylon giving societies. He also serves on the Department of Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board and is a member of the College of Engineering’s elite Committee of 100 and Academy of Engineering Excellence. Des Champs also served a term on the College of Engineering’s Advisory Board.
His path to education — and the confidence he gained as a result of it — is what inspires him to give to Virginia Tech.
As the son of a brick mason based in Henrico County, Virginia, Des Champs went to work for his dad after high school, and watched as most of his friends left to attend college. The following year, he decided he’d enroll at Virginia Tech’s extended campus in Richmond, opting for mechanical engineering because he was good with his hands and working on cars.
“Boy, I had to work my you-know-what off in the first year to try to get up with everybody else,” Des Champs said.