Anand (Bill) Julka has a passion for education. "I really believe education is the key to improving your life," he says.
And although he's only 55 years old, Julka recently made a $2 million commitment to the University in his will as part of his estate planning. His generous gift is in appreciation for the education he received and will be earmarked for the College of Education and Human Services. It is the largest gift in the College's history.
Julka earned a master's degree from the Fenn College of Engineering in 1974 and is now president of Smart Solutions, Inc., a regional leader in systems integration. The firm has thrice been recognized as a Weatherhead 100 company and was named one of the top 50 Diversity Owned Businesses in Ohio. In 2004 Julka was a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
His life today is far different than when he came to Cleveland State alone from India. He was just 22 years old, with two shirts, two pairs of trousers, a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, and his sights set on getting a master's degree in industrial engineering in America. He chose Cleveland State after reading a brochure that said students could take all their classes at night so they could work during the day.
"That was my motivation. I didn't know a soul. I didn't even have a place to live. When I walked into registration, I said, 'I'm here, I need a room' but they were all taken," he recalls.
Julka stayed at the nearby YMCA for two nights, then was invited to move into the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity house by a brother who took pity on his plight. "There was a party every night. After two months, I started feeling guilty because I had come 10,000 miles to study, not to party. So I moved into a house that a theology professor was renting to students. There were strict rules and it was quiet," he says.
Julka graduated after two years of night classes, all the while working as an engineer at the Eaton Corporation, a position he held for 11 years before starting Smart Solutions 22 years ago.
"Everything I have, I owe to my excellent education. Ever since I graduated, I've been thinking of ways to repay Cleveland State," he says. "I hire graduates there are probably about 3 alumni at our locations in Canton, Columbus and Cleveland and they are excellent workers."
He also has given generously of his time and talent. Julka is a member of the visiting committee for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and is a past member of the committee for the College of Education and Human Services. He delivers guest lectures. And with the late Bhushan Wadhwa, professor of mathematics, he established a tutoring program for students at East High School.
"When I talk to people, I'm proud to tell them I'm a Cleveland State graduate," he says.
His bequest is a logical next step in showing his commitment to his alma mater, he believes.
"I'm very happy to be making this bequest and I encourage other alumni to do the same," he says.