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Legacy Family: Families Converge in Engineering

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Krista and Adam Suri with their children (from left): Lucas, Nicholas, Marcus, and Ana.

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When Prem Suri, MSCE ’70 was admitted to Bradley University with a civil engineering assistantship to pursue his master’s degree, he could not have foreseen the legacy he was planting in the United States. He traveled from India in 1968, and his wife, Sudesh, followed a year later with their young son.

Today, not only have their two sons, Adam Suri ’88 and Chetan Suri ’01, graduated from Bradley, but Adam met his wife, Krista Cornwell Suri ’88, on the Hilltop, and she tells a legacy story all her own.

The daughter of Dr. Larry Cornwell, professor emeritus of business administration, and Sara Cornwell, MA ’92, a retired counselor for Bradley’s Wellness Center, Krista said her dad inspired her to attend Bradley by introducing her to the engineering department when she was in high school. “Dad described the industrial engineering (IE) program, including the projects students were focusing on with Dr. Joe Emanuel [professor emeritus of industrial engineering],” she said. “Another motivation was hearing about opportunities in the co-op program, which I interviewed for my freshman year.”

Once Adam arrived at Bradley as a transfer student, Emanuel influenced him, as well: “The reality was I was not going to get into med school, so Joe convinced me to choose IE,” Adam said. “Since my family lived in Peoria, I could commute to Bradley. My brother also transferred to Bradley and finished his degree in computer science.”

Currently president of USA for CommunityDNS, Adam holds patents in network management and optical encryption. Adam said Dr. K. S. Krishnamoorthi, professor of industrial engineering, encouraged him to pursue an MBA: “I owe Krish a lot; earning my MBA helped my career take off.” Adam added that he is pleased to see the continued move toward convergence in the engineering and business colleges focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation and believes “computer science is the next wave.”

‘Best Professors in the World’

Although Adam and Krista graduated with the same degrees, they enjoyed different Bradley experiences. Adam arrived as a student-athlete when club soccer was transitioning to a Division I program. Krista focused on the work experience she earned through co-ops with “the cream of the crop — Kodak, International Paper … I had Fortune 100 companies on my resume when I graduated from college,” Krista said. “The co-op program was an invaluable opportunity.”

Now residing in Ellicott City, Maryland, the parents of four agree that their active Bradley social lives centered around Greek life: Krista was a Sigma Kappa and Adam a Sigma Chi. “Bradley provided us with the complete package, both academically and socially,” Adam explained. “Our engineering backgrounds are second to none. In the IE department, we had some of the best professors in the world; when we were there, the department was ranked one of the best IE departments in the country.”

Krista said she “loves making comparisons” between Bradley and her graduate school experience at Northwestern University. “I was one of six females in a special joint master’s program with 60 students from the top engineering schools in the nation, and I would constantly reflect on what a strong foundation Bradley had given me. I was able to compete; I had a much better undergrad experience than the students around me. I had Dr. Rita Newton [professor emeritus of industrial engineering at Bradley], a strong female who made an impact on me with her meticulous nature and good habits.”

From Engineering To Education

Before recently deciding to attend the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to become a high school math teacher and influence the next generation to enter the STEM fields, Krista said the integration of engineering and business has been her focus since graduating from Bradley; from Northwestern to her career in management consulting, she said she has “lived convergence. It’s the right direction to go.”

She added, “Of course, I am biased toward motivating young women. The pioneering work is not done, and my fellow female engineers often discuss what we can do. At this phase in my life, I can do what I want: inspire the next generation to look into industrial engineering, accounting and other math-related fields.”

She worked during the summer with high-risk inner-city students and sought to “grab their attention” when she challenged them: “I am just the kind of person who is always asking, ‘Why? How do you know? What data do you have to make that decision? That’s what motivated me to be an engineer. If you are like me and are always asking similar questions, maybe you should look into becoming an engineer.’ Many times, students respond with ‘Yeah, that’s me!’”

The legacy of the Cornwell family continues with Brent Cornwell ’87, Todd Cornwell ’95 MBA ’98 and Michelle Cornwell Walker ’89 and her husband, Jeff Walker ’89. Krista’s uncle, the late Harold Slater ’49 MS ’53, played football for the Bradley Braves.

— By Karen Crowley Metzinger, MA ’97