Alfred E. Knobler, a 1938 ceramic engineering graduate of Virginia Tech, has provided a $600,000 gift over the next three years to his home department as well as to the English Department.

The two departments will use the funds to recruit the first 15 graduate students for their programs. Ceramic engineering, which evolved into the current department of materials science and engineering (MSE), will be able to add a minimum of four graduate students to its enrollment. English will add eight.

The departments will share equally in the $600,000 gift; however, the difference between the number of graduate students that would be designated as Knobler Scholars in each of the departments arises from the difference in graduate program costs in the two departments.

In the MSE department, the Knobler Scholars will be master of science and Ph.D. candidates working to pursue advanced materials studies related to industrial and biomedical applications.

In the English department, the Knobler Scholars will be master of arts or master of fine arts candidates. Several of them will be learning the craft of creative writing alongside internationally known writers Nikki Giovanni and Fred Daguiar.

The Knobler Scholars will be an interdisciplinary cohort exchanging ideas and skills with each other and other graduate students. They will work with faculty during the next three years to organize and present the annual Alfred E. Knobler Summit. "This will be a university-wide, interdisciplinary event showcasing the accomplishments, creativity, and talent of students and faculty affected by the Knobler gift, in the renaissance spirit of Mr. Knobler's own life's work," says Hassan Aref, dean of the College of Engineering.

As Knobler Scholars, "we expect they will be citizens engaged in the community, perhaps leading by example serving as writers or engineers in residence in an area elementary school encouraging the creative talents of young boys and girls. They will bring understandable pride to the departments and Virginia Tech through their scholarship and their activities," Aref adds.

"The Knobler gift will do more than enrich the academic lives of students," says Jerry Niles, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. "The Knobler gift is also a definitive illustration of the possibilities that can arise for promoting academic excellence when the ideas of a visionary donor and the creative collaboration of two departments across two colleges, partnering with the Graduate School, come together."

Knobler is CEO of The Pilgrim Glass Corporation and Knobler International, Ltd. He lives in New York City where he adopted New York City Public School 42, the same P.S. 42 elementary school from which he graduated in 1928. Knobler's philanthropic nature is epitomized by his relationship with the public school. After visiting and finding it had changed very little from the 1920s, he provided the school with badly needed funds and materials and has volunteered his time to discuss with the students the economic, social and political history of their neighborhood.

Knobler has two children, Peter, a writer, and Joanna, a doctor, and three grandchildren, all of whom live in New York City.

The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences embraces the arts, humanities, social and human sciences, and education. The college nurtures intellect and spirit, enlightens decision-making, inspires positive change, and improves the quality of life for people of all ages. It is home to the departments of apparel, housing and resource management, communication, educational leadership and policy studies, English, foreign languages and literatures, history; human development, interdisciplinary studies, international studies, music, philosophy, political science, ROTC, science and technology in society, sociology, teaching and learning, and theatre arts.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college's 5,600 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a "hands-on, minds-on" approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 2,000 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology.