Alumnus and wife establish endowment in architectural engineering

Mariah Chuprinski
August 18, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rob Banas attributes much of his career success in the building industry to the education he received as an undergraduate student in Penn State’s architectural engineering (AE) program. 

Rob Banas, a 1985 graduate in the lighting/electrical engineering option, and his wife, Karen, recently established a $30,000 endowment, titled the Banas Family Award in Architectural Engineering, to benefit future generations of AE students, with preference given to those who demonstrate leadership through academic performance and professional service. 

“We are so grateful for the charitable contribution of Rob and Karen Banas,” said Sez Atamturktur, Harry and Arlene Schell Professor and head of the Department of Architectural Engineering. “Because of their generosity, future AE students will benefit from financial assistance for years to come and will have help in completing their degree programs.”

After graduating from Penn State, Rob Banas worked in Baltimore, Maryland, before establishing Leach Wallace Associates, Inc. in 1990 with three other partners with the goal to provide quality design services for complex buildings. The firm, which specializes in mechanical and electrical systems design for health care facilities, was acquired by global engineering design company WSP last year. Rob Banas has served as the president of Leach Wallace Associates, Inc. and is now a senior vice president and regional managing director at WSP. 

“From the very beginning, we focused our business on the design of health care facilities, including hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, outpatient facilities, laboratories and other complex buildings,” he said. “Health care has been a consistently strong industry, which allowed our firm to grow from the original four partners to a staff of over 130 before merging with WSP.”

A member of WSP, Leach Wallace Associates operates out of three offices located in York, Pennsylvania; Elkridge, Maryland; and Charlotte, North Carolina. Through the years, Rob Banas recruited many Penn State AE graduates to work at the firm by attending the annual AE Career Fair. He estimates that at least 25 AE alumni are currently working for Leach Wallace Associates.

Rob Banas also is involved with the department’s Alumni Society of Architectural Engineers, has guest lectured in undergraduate classes including holding a micro-credentialing session earlier this year and participates in the AE Career Fair every year. 

In establishing the endowment, Rob Banas wanted to increase his already robust involvement with the department.

“I’ve been involved with the AE department in various capacities over the years and establishing an endowment seemed like another great way to give back since it has done so much for me,” he said. “I attribute a lot of my personal success and the success of my family to the education I received at Penn State.”

Karen Banas agreed.

“I personally feel passionate about this program, as I’ve seen Rob grow from a kid in college to a leader in the building design industry,” she said. “We were inspired to give in order to help students stay in the program and finish their fifth year of school.”

Rob and Karen have two children, a daughter, Casey, a computer engineering student at the University of Maryland; and a son, AJ, a second-year architectural engineering student at Penn State. The couple resides in Glenwood, Maryland.

This gift will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit


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Last Updated August 18, 2020