Print This Issue

Penn Engineering: Rachleff Scholars Program to Foster Research, Leadership, Community Outreach
October 28, 2008, Volume 55, No. 10


The School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania has established the Rachleff Scholars honors program offering undergraduates the early opportunity to conduct research with University faculty, organize partnerships with regional industry and perform community outreach.

Rachleff Scholars will include students in every Penn Engineering department: bioengineering, chemical and biomolecular engineering, computer and information science, electrical and systems engineering, materials science and engineering, and mechanical engineering and applied mechanics. The program will also offer students the possibility of pursuing interdisciplinary and personalized curricula.

“Our goal is to attract extraordinary students and infuse them with a passion for creative careers in engineering by pairing them as quickly as possible with the most inspiring faculty in the field,” said Dr. Jan Van der Spiegel, director of the Rachleff Scholars program and a professor of electrical and systems engineering. “The program will create a social and intellectual community that will empower the students and make them lifelong leaders in technological innovation.”

Students in the program will participate in a 10- to 12-week paid summer research experience for academic credit, to be conducted under the supervision and mentorship of standing Penn faculty. In addition, Rachleff Scholars will have the opportunity to work with their peers outside the classroom and laboratory through community-building activities.

The Rachleff Scholars program is made possible by a gift from Debra and Andrew Rachleff. Mr. Rachleff, W’80,  is a Penn trustee, chair of the Board of Overseers of Penn Engineering and partner and co-founder of Benchmark Capital. He is also a lecturer in entrepreneurship at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he earned his MBA in 1984.

Encouraging students to become engineers has been a pet project of Mr. Rachleff’s over the years. He has also funded the Rachleff Lectures, a series at Penn that brings highly successful engineers to campus to talk with students about making engineering their career choice.

Mr. Rachleff co-founded Benchmark Capital in 1995, which was the sole investor in eBay, one of Silicon Valley’s best performing investments. “I was fortunate to succeed financially because of the efforts of brilliant engineers,” says Mr. Rachleff. “I want to do more than give back. I want to make sure we get more engineering students out in the world working as engineers.”

Prior to his ten years as a general partner at Benchmark Capital, Mr. Rachleff spent ten years as a general partner with Merrill, Pickard, Anderson & Eyre (MPAE). Before joining MPAE, he held a variety of positions in the investment industry, working as an associate at Harvest Ventures; as a portfolio manager at Lamoreaux, Glynn & Associates; and as a financial analyst at Blyth Eastman Paine Webber.

Mr. Rachleff became a Penn trustee eight years ago, and became a member of its Investment Board in July 2008. He joined the SEAS Board of Overseers in 2005 because he was compelled to address the nation’s diminishing ability to innovate due to loss of engineers in the workplace.

The Rachleffs endowed a chair at Penn in 2000, the Andrew and Debra Rachleff Professor and Chair of the Department of Computer and Information Science. It has been held by Dr. Fernando C. N. Pereira.




Almanac - October 28, 2008, Volume 55, No. 10