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ISU alum Dr. Kamlesh Lulla named to Carnegie’s 2021 list



Photo courtesy of Kamlesh Lulla/ Carnegie Corporation of NY

Indiana State University alumnus Dr. Kamlesh Lulla — a NASA chief scientist and an expert in space and geospatial technology — was named to Carnegie Corporation of New York’s 2021 list of Great Immigrants, Great Americans.

Lulla, 72, is honored for his exemplary service to the United States and the field of space through his career at NASA which spans more than three decades. He is a senior advisor for university research and technology collaboration at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the former chief scientist for earth observations and remote sensing in the space shuttle and international space station programs.

“I am deeply honored and humbled by this award and recognition,” Lulla said. “This is the highest honor one can receive as an immigrant. I was born in India but I became an American by choice! I am thrilled to be recognized as ‘Great Immigrant, Great American.’”

Lulla holds two Ph.D. degrees with expertise in environmental science and geoscience remote sensing. He began developing his expertise in the latter at ISU, where he earned a Ph.D. in geography in 1983.

“ISU opened many doors for me both personally and professionally,” he said. “I had great mentors at ISU, both formal and informal. I fondly remember Professor Bill Brett who invited me to ISU and Professor Paul Mausel under whose tutelage I acquired remote sensing and geospatial science expertise that propelled me to my career at NASA.”

Lulla has trained astronauts, helped develop the International Space Station’s observational science capabilities, and published vital research on topics such as climate change science, according to the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Lulla moved to the U.S. in 1978 and served as visiting professor at ISU after completing a Ph.D. in India. Then he became a Ph.D. student in ISU’s Department of Earth and Environmental Systems and proudly recalled the excellent program and important remote sensing problems faculty and students tackled in the early 1980s. He served as a full-time faculty member in the program from 1983-1988 after earning his second Ph.D.

When asked what today’s students can learn from his example, he said, “Learning is an unfinished journey. Keep on learning and reskilling yourself.”

Lulla is the recipient of three NASA Exceptional Achievement Medals and the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, one of the highest awards given by the government of India.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York celebrates the contributions of immigrants to American life every Fourth of July, and this year honored Lulla along with 33 other naturalized citizens representing more than 30 countries of origin “for helping others as medical providers and researchers; as advocates for the disadvantaged, disabled, and disenfranchised; and as changemakers in politics, voting rights, climate change, and teaching.”

Other honorees included the chairman and CEO of Pfizer; the head of Google’s interactive design; the creator of language-learning software Duolingo; winners of the Pulitzer, Nobel, Vilcek, and Beard prizes; and celebrities such as actress Helen Mirren and comedian John Oliver.

Between the first and second quarters of ISU’s season-opening football game, a video of former Sycamore player Tunch Ilkin played on the video screen.

“I wish I could be there with you,” Ilkin said. “I appreciate this honor and all your support, thoughts, and prayers. I love you and Go Sycamores.”

Less than a week later, Ilkin, 63, died of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Ilkin and another former Sycamore player, Ron Carpenter, who also has a neurodegenerative disease, have been honored by teammates, family and friends with an endowment to benefit ISU Football.

The Carpenter/Ilkin Football Endowment has raised more than $40,000 from more than 50 donors. Ilkin, who played 14 seasons in the NFL, announced his retirement in June 2021 as an NFL television and radio analyst for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last October, he announced that he had ALS.

Carpenter, a former co-captain for the Sycamores football team, served as president of the ISU Board of Trustees and the ISU Alumni Association Board.

“We are truly excited for the Carpenter/Ilkin Football Endowment that will not only help support our football program but also honor two Sycamore greats,” ISU Director of Athletics Sherard Clinkscales said. “We are thankful to the former teammates, friends and family members who came together to create this endowment and properly recognize Ron and Tunch.”

“One of my fondest memories was living in Lincoln Quad. It was a pleasant place to live and had a very good sense of community. I want to support this initiative, because we will be benefiting the next generation of students.”

—John Crouch, ’84, Foundation Board Member and Founder of the Lincoln Quad project.

You can own a piece of historic LINCOLN QUAD

Lincoln Quad, opened in 1969, was a popular living community on campus for decades before it became obsolete. It was razed last spring to create even more green space on campus. A limited number of commemorative Lincoln Quad bricks are available for purchase on a first-come, first-served basis. Proceeds will provide support for students’ emergency housing needs through the Residential Life fund.

Reserve your piece of history today! indstate.edu/lincolnquad

The event at the season-opening football game also honored Carpenter, who was present in person. There was a reception outside the stadium before the game.

Former Sycamore quarterback David Pearre, a 1976 ISU graduate and teammate of Ilkin and Carpenter, is leading the fundraising effort. He said the endowment’s goal is to permanently name the ISU offensive line coach in their honor. Both players were offensive linemen. Carpenter played for ISU from 1974-77 and Ilkin 1975-79.

“Ron and Tunch are special teammates who have accomplished a great deal in their lives and been generous and giving along the way,” Pearre said.

Said ISU head football coach Curt Mallory: “Our alumni have a tremendous passion for our program, and their leadership to honor Tunch Ilkin and Ron Carpenter is admirable. The vision for the endowment will forever ensure that these two Sycamores are connected to ISU Football and create critical resources to enhance our program. I am extremely grateful to the alumni, friends and family who have supported this initiative.”

Ilkin graduated from ISU in 1980 with a degree in broadcast journalism. He was a sixth-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ilkin was named to the ISU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.

On the day Ilkin died, Mallory tweeted, “He was beloved by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him. His legacy will never be forgotten at Indiana State. Rest In Peace, Tunch.”

Carpenter earned his bachelor’s degree in 1977 and master’s degree in 1982 from ISU. He spent his career in non-profit management and served several roles at ISU, including President of the ISU Foundation from 2012-17. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from ISU in 1998.



Indiana State University has received a grant of more than $1.48 million from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to support primary care physician assistant training for rural and medically underserved areas of Indiana.

The grant will fund a five-year project called Preparing Physician Assistants for Rural Practice: Sycamore Physician Assistant Rural Care Program (SPARC). The grant project is the result of collaboration among ISU’s Office of Sponsored Programs; the Physician Assistant Studies program; and health professional programs, including physical therapy, nursing, social work.

Liz Metzger of Sponsored Programs and Nicole Heck of Physician Assistant Studies were instrumental in securing the highly competitive federal grant.

“The SPARC grant will leverage an interprofessional faculty team of physician assistants, physical therapists, social workers, and nurses to prepare students to practice medicine in rural and underserved areas of Indiana,” said Dr. Caroline Mallory, Dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “This is a fine example of our commitment to improving the health of Indiana residents.”

The primary goal of SPARC is to increase the number of physician assistant graduates who work in these communities. It has been designed to bolster and sustain mental health and pain management services, said Dr. John Pommier, Professor and Chair of the Department of Applied Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Pommier, along with Doug Stevens, Assistant Professor and Director of the Physician Assistant Program, will lead the project.

“Through this project, we are sharing expertise with rural health care providers and at the same time providing our students with deeper curricular and experiential exposure in primary care,” Pommier said.

Efforts will focus on 14 counties in west-central Indiana. They are predominantly rural and low-income and have higher-than-average incidences of mental illness, addiction, substance abuse, smoking, and obesity. In addition to providing services to the clinics in rural areas, the project also aims to raise community awareness of opioid abuse and other mental health issues.

ISU created the physician assistant program in 2011. Its mission is to “create a student-centered educational environment that engages individuals to become compassionate, competent physician assistants who possess the clinical skills to contribute positively to the dynamic health care needs of rural and underserved populations.”

The impact of donor giving at Indiana State University is helping establish and advance University programs and initiatives. The philanthropic passions of our donors are improving the lives of our students through scholarships, hands-on learning, program and facility development, and much more.

Paul and Susan Chaney of Madison, Alabama, made a commitment of $225,000 through their estate. Their gift will enhance the Paul and Susan Chaney Family Legacy Endowed Scholarship and will also support the Kappa Alpha Psi Endowment. The Chaney Family Legacy Scholarship, originally established in 2018, aims to support students from Marion County, Indiana, who are incoming freshman at Indiana State. The Kappa Alpha Psi Endowment supports scholarships for members of the fraternity.

Ron and Sandra Culp of St. Charles, Illinois, made a commitment through their estate to support the Ron and Sandra Culp Student Leadership Scholarship. Their planned gift will increase the endowed scholarship originally established in 2012 and support junior or senior students majoring in communication with a concentration in public relations or journalism who have demonstrated leadership in Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), The Indiana Statesman, or the Student Government Association.

Don Dudine of Magnet, Indiana, provided philanthropic support to establish The Don Dudine Marching Sycamores Incentive Scholarship at the ISU School of Music. This scholarship will encourage non-music majors to continue to develop their musical skills and participate in Marching Band.

The estate of Marion Eller provided a $625,000 planned gift to support Indiana State University programs and initiatives. Marion graduated from ISU in 1954 with an education degree. She was a high school educator for more than 40 years, retiring from Northwestern High School in Kokomo, Indiana, in 1996.

Bob and Susan Guell committed $100,000 to support need-based student scholarships and the Economics program. Their support will permanently endow the ISU Faculty and Staff Bridge the Gap Scholarship. In addition, their commitment will create the Department of Economics Student Travel Fund and to provide Economics majors experiential learning opportunities requiring travel of more than 120 miles from campus.

Tom and Linda Huser of Noblesville, Indiana, made a $500,000 commitment through their estate to establish the Thomas J. and Linda S. Huser Endowed Scholarship. Their planned gift will support scholarships for students in the College of Health and Human Services.

Rea Jane Linville of Terre Haute gave $100,000 to support the William J. and Rea Jane Linville Scholarship in Elementary Education. The scholarship will help Elementary Education majors who are student teaching.

Methodist Sports Medicine provided the ISU Athletic Department an in-kind gift for medical services for the 2020-21 athletics season. The independent, regionally-acclaimed, orthopedic specialty practice focused on individualized treatments has been a longstanding partner for Sycamore Athletics.

Jack and Joyce Rentschler of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, gave $100,000 in support of a variety of ISU athletic programs as well as the Bayh College of Education. The couple also made an additional $100,000 gift supporting the University’s 2021 Give to Blue Day in March.

Dr. Kenneth Smith of McKinney, Texas, gave $1 million to honor his late wife, Theresa Kathryn (Klein) Smith, and create four endowed scholarships in Accounting, Economics, Finance, and History. In recognition of the gift, ISU’s Board of Trustees approved in June the naming of the Kenneth L. Smith and Theresa Kathryn (Klein) Smith Magna Carta Courtroom on the second floor of the Federal Building, home of the Scott College of Business.

Ohio-based - Trayak LLC - provided a software gift supporting the Packaging Engineering Technology Lab in the College of Technology. The company’s application platform for research and design, engineering and sustainability assess and report the environmental impacts of products and packaging.

*Donor gifts are reflective of giving from April through August 2021.