LAWRENCE — University of Kansas School of Engineering alumnus Murli Tolaney is donating $50,000 to strengthen the Tolaney Family Scholarship he established 15 years ago. His ongoing goal: help KU environmental engineering students follow in his academic and professional footsteps, a career that included building MWH Global into an international powerhouse for water projects.
His son, Neil Tolaney, also is donating $50,000 — even though he’s never obtained a KU degree or enrolled in a class on Mount Oread.
“Kansas was the foundation for my father’s career and, in many ways, the foundation for our family,” said Neil Tolaney, who is a general partner in the venture capital industry in the Bay Area. “It’s only appropriate that my wife, Neetu, and I convey a small token of our appreciation with a gift that may allow those same possibilities for that next generation of students who come to Kansas and the great things they can accomplish.”
The combined gift adds to the $100,000 Murli Tolaney donated in 2008 upon his retirement as chairman of MWH Global. It’s the firm where he’d started 35 years earlier, working his way up to CEO from 1992 to 2001, when he led the firm through 13 acquisitions and grew revenue from $200 million to $1 billion.
From 2001 to 2009, Murli served as chair of MWH.
And to hear him tell it, none of it would have happened without the School of Engineering. It’s where he landed after leaving India, moving to Canada to be with his sister, and sending applications to 10 schools with hopes for resuming his engineering education.
Enrolling at KU with “no money,” he said, Murli Tolaney landed a 20-hours-a-week job in the Environmental Engineering Lab — doing homework while experiments “cooked” in the evening — on the way to earning a bachelor’s in civil engineering. After working two years in Kansas City, he went on to earn a full scholarship and a master’s in environmental engineering.
Now the Tolaney Family Scholarship is going strong, too. It is given each year to a promising master’s or doctoral student who, like Murli Tolaney, could use a boost on the way to making a big difference.
“Without people helping me, I probably wouldn’t have gotten a degree even — forget about becoming CEO or chairman,” he said. “And, frankly, very little would have happened for my family. I’m so grateful, so thankful. I owe a lot to KU, no question, and this is a way of giving back.”
“We are grateful to the Tolaney family for their support over the years. This gift helps to raise the national stature of KU Engineering and truly benefits our students,” said Dean of Engineering Arvin Agah.
KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university. For more information or to make a gift, visit www.kuendowment.org.
Photo: Neil Tolaney (left), Arvin Agah, KU dean of Engineering, and Murli Tolaney gather for a KU Engineering alumni event in Southern California earlier this year.