With the passing of Paul Soros on June 15, the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) has lost one of the most beloved figures in the history of the school. Soros, who earned a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1950 and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 2005, was a formidable intellect, creative thinker, and generous benefactor. He dwelled—and will continue to dwell—in the hearts of the entire NYU-Poly community.
Soros’s life—from escaping Communist Hungary as a young man to founding one of the largest and most respected engineering firms in the world—stands as a testament to the power of determination, hard work, and vision. The winner of an i2e Innovator of Distinction Award, he exemplified the principles of invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship--the cornerstones of an NYU-Poly education—and his continued involvement with the school was always a source of deep pride for us.
One of our most active and giving alumni, Soros served untiringly as a trustee from 1977 until 2008, and time and again, we benefited from his largesse. He once explained, “I support Poly because [providing] a quality education on an affordable basis is a cause I believe in.”
In 2012 he launched the Paul Soros Prize for Creative Engineering, later renamed, at his insistence, the Paul Soros/Jerry Hultin Prize, in honor of NYU-Poly’s President Emeritus. The award is given each year to an individual student or a team from the fields of civil or mechanical engineering for the most innovative design idea or invention. The prize provides encouragement and financial support to some of the brightest young engineers in the nation, and it celebrates the creative drive that enabled Soros, then a bright young engineer himself, to revolutionize the field of shipping in the mid-1950s.
His munificence extended far beyond the walls of Poly, and in 1997 he and his wife established the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, which has funded the graduate education of hundreds of talented students relatively new to our shores. “This country would not be what it is today without contributions from immigrants,” Soros, who never forgot what it felt like to leave his native land for a strange place, explained. “The United States has great opportunities. If you have what it takes and are willing to work, you will be a success.” Those words are particularly stirring for those of us at NYU-Poly, where many of the students hail from other countries.
As Soros’s words live on, so will his legacy. We will always be gratified and proud to be listed as his alma mater and to count him as one of our greats. “We extend our deepest condolences to Mrs. Soros, their sons, Peter and Jeffrey; and Paul’s brother, George,” NYU-Poly President Katepalli Sreenivasan said. “We assure the entire family that his name will always be remembered here, and, we will continue to hold him up as an example to the new generation of engineers that we are educating.”
A memorial service will be held on Thursday, June 27th at 11:00 am in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. The entire NYU-Poly community is welcome to attend, to help pay tribute to a great friend, an exemplary human being, and a man who personifies the motto i2e.
For more information about Soros’s life and distinguished career, please see the tribute in the New York Times.