His mom made his first year of college possible. Now his gift pays tribute to her and honors all who helped along the way.

December 22, 2020

Growing up in Pakistan, Ali Piyarali ’84 had strong ambitions to study engineering in the United States, but this dream seemed beyond reach.

When Piyarali was 10 years old, his father died, leaving his mother to raise him and his five siblings as a widow. Going to college in America seemed out of the question. But Piyarali’s mother found a way with the help of savings and from extended family who wanted to support his educational dream.

“I don’t know how she did it, but she did whatever she could to get enough funding to pay for a year of college,” Piyarali said. “She told me though, that after that one year, I had to figure it out on my own.”

So Piyarali came to OSU in 1980, an 18-year-old international student who had never before traveled on an airplane. His first year at OSU went well; but, just as his mother had foretold, the money ran out after one year. Fortunately, Piyarali received a scholarship from the International Student Fund, which at the time supported international students pursuing their education at OSU. He graduated with a degree in industrial engineering and went on to have a successful career at Accenture, retiring as partner of the Fortune-500 company after a 31-year career.

“It was the community of Oregon State that helped him get where he is,” said his wife, Shahina Piyarali. “Without them, he really wouldn’t be here. That’s part of the narrative of our giving, which is to make sure you give to the people who help you.”

To show gratitude to the community that helped him, Ali and Shahina Piyarali recently made a $350,000 current-use gift to OSU’s College of Engineering to create the Shirin Bano Piyarali Fund for Excellence MIME (Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering), which the couple named in honor of his mother who is still living in Pakistan.

“When you look at where she came from and what she was able to accomplish, it’s unbelievable,” Piyarali said of his mother, adding that she taught herself English despite having only an elementary-level education. “This gift is a way to pay tribute to her.”

The Shirin Bano Piyarali Fund for Excellence MIME provides $350,000 in unrestricted funding for the School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering, which allows the school to seize emerging opportunities, catalyze new initiatives and address its most urgent needs.

Most recently MIME allocated a portion of the gift to support an OSU’s student-led, multidisciplinary rocket team called HALE, which stands for High Altitude Liquid Engine. Together, this student-led team is participating in a hands-on national competition called the Base 11 Space Challenge. Through this challenge, student-led teams are to design, build and launch a liquid-propelled, single-stage rocket to an altitude of 100 kilometers (the Karman Line) by December 30, 2021. The winner is eligible for a $1 million prize.

Piyarali said he is happy to know his gift is supporting this project because he has experienced firsthand the value of OSU’s hands-on approach to education. During his time at OSU, Piyarali participated in an OSU internship program through which he worked at Intel and a startup company called Floating Point Systems.

“The program took you to local companies and allowed you to apply your skills. That was big for me,” said Piyarali, who also supports a scholarship to students who participate in study abroad and international internships. “It was the most instrumental moment in my career. That program really lifted me into the field of engineering, making it my career. It changed my life.”

The Piyaralis added they are pleased to make a large current-use gift because it allows them to witness the significant impact that their support is having on a focused area, right away.

“For me, to get the education that I received and the support that I got through Oregon State was important to me,” he said. “So this is my way of giving back.”

Due to the disruption caused by the global pandemic, gifts to Oregon State University are more vital than ever. Join fellow Beavers like Ali Piyarali by making a gift today.