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Tuskegee Honors Life of Dr. Shaik Jeelani

Dr. Shaik Jeelani shakes hands with President Barack Obama.
Dr. Shaik Jeelani shakes hands with President Barack Obama.

It is with great sadness that Tuskegee University announces the passing of Dr. Shaik Jeelani. He was vice president for Research and Sponsored Programs and dean of the Graduate School and had served Tuskegee for more than 40 years.
Dr. Jeelani was a dedicated and long-serving member of Tuskegee University’s faculty and administration. He served as the first Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs since 1996 and was currently serving as the Dean of the Graduate School since 2015.

A moment of silence was observed at noon on Tuesday in his memory. The university has established the Dr. Shaik Jeelani Memorial Scholarship Fund to honor his legacy.

“Dr. Jeelani’s dedication to his students and this university cannot be compared,” said Dr. Charlotte P. Morris, Tuskegee University president. “His innovative ideas exposed our students ‘to all that could be’ while garnering more than $100 million for research to continue to provide undergraduate and graduate students with the tools they needed to advance their education.”

Leading through Innovation

In December 2011, Dr. Jeelani received the Presidential Award for Mentoring at the White House. President Obama congratulated Dr. Jeelani in the Oval Office after the award ceremony.

Dr. Jeelani joined Tuskegee University in 1974 as an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering and served in many roles in the School of Engineering and Architecture, including Interim Dean from 1992-1994. He played a leading role in developing various curriculums and infrastructure through a $2.50 million grant from the Army Research Office.

This effort resulted in the university obtaining full (six years) ABET accreditation for all of its engineering programs. Dr. Jeelani also wrote the proposal for funding the first Endowed Chair in Materials Science and Engineering at Tuskegee University.

In 1998, he spearheaded the development of the curriculum, recruitment of students, and establishment of Tuskegee University’s first Ph.D. program in Materials Science and Engineering, where he recruited and mentored the first batch of students for these programs.

“I salute Dr. Jeelani for his major contributions to Tuskegee and his unwavering commitment to student achievement, particularly in the STEM disciplines,” said Tuskegee Board of Trustees Chair Norma Clayton. “He was an avid supporter of cutting-edge research for graduate students.”

Funding Support topped $100 million

As Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs, he developed aggressive strategies and plans to increase funding for research and other sponsored programs. He led teams for Sponsored Programs, International Programs, Grantsmanship, and Compliance.

As a result of streamlining the grants and contracts process through the development of various Sponsored Programs and Compliance Guides and the publication of Tuskegee’s Research Capability, Funding for Research and Sponsored Programs at Tuskegee University has secured over $100 million in research grants for the university during his tenure.

Dr. Jeelani was also instrumental in designing innovative K-12 programs that have become effective mechanisms to identify, motivate and recruit students for academic programs in science and engineering at Tuskegee University.

Dr. Shaik Jeelani in Materials Science Lab with President George W. Bush.
Dr. Shaik Jeelani in Materials Science Lab with President George W. Bush.

President George W. Bush visited the Center for Advanced Materials in 2008 to meet with Dr. Jeelani and Ph.D. student in Materials Science and Engineering, Nydeia Wright, to learn about the research conducted in the Center for Advanced Materials at Tuskegee University.

He developed and implemented impressive scholarship and mentoring programs with support from the industry and the national labs. Corporations and foundations such as Boeing, Ford Foundation, GEM, General Electric, General Motors, NACME, Proctor and Gamble, and Raytheon provide student scholarships and mentoring support.

He authored several educational partnership agreements (EPA) with corporations and national labs. These EPAs include scholarships, support with academic preparation, internships, and mentoring to include: two EPAs, Tuskegee-Raytheon and Tuskegee-AFML (Air Force Materials Laboratory), which are currently being replicated at other institutions.

“Few universities are as fortunate to have the kind of iconic researcher, mentor, change agent, and loyal employee such as Dr. Shaik Jeelani,” said Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, Tuskegee’s provost. “He influenced the lives of scores of students, alums, and faculty in the many disciplines of STEM. I am here today, in large part, because of his influence and mentorship, as hundreds can attest to the same impact on their personal lives and careers.”

Presidential Recognition

Dr. Jeelani received numerous honors and awards during his career. In December 2011, he was invited to the White House to receive the Presidential Award for Mentoring presented by 44th President Barack Obama. In 2014, he received the Alabama Academy of Science Award for Outstanding Contributions to Science and was inducted into the Mechanical Engineering Hall of Fame at North Carolina State University in 2018.

He was well-known in the scientific community and member of several professional and scientific societies. He has authored and co-authored over 285 papers in various journals, presented 485 technical papers at national and international conferences, and wrote numerous Technical reports for NSF, NASA, NAVY, ARMY, and Air Force.

“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Shaik Jeelani,” said Dr. Bernard E. Anderson, chairman of the Educational Policies and Honors Committee of the Tuskegee Board of Trustees. “He was a man of deep intellectual sagacity, infectious vitality, and unlimited commitment to strengthening the academic richness of Tuskegee University.

“I relished the opportunity to meet with him and discuss academic affairs when I was on the campus attending board meetings and convocations,” he said. “I always sought him out, knowing I would gain something of value by speaking with him. The University has lost a towering giant with his passing. I offer my condolences to his family. He bore the load with grace and stamina; he kept the faith. May he rest in peace.”

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