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Engineering Alumnus and GE Aviation Vice President Establishes UC Scholarship Fund

The establishment of the Mohammad and Zari Ehteshami Family Scholarship Fund will provide $25,000 in scholarship support for University of Cincinnati students.

Date: 4/21/2017 12:00:00 PM
By: Ashley Duvelius
Phone: (513) 556-9181

UC ingot  
Ehteshami headshot

As the vice president and general manager of engineering at GE Aviation, Mohammad Ehteshami, University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) mechanical engineering ’85 alumnus, has helped build the world’s largest and most powerful jet engines during his impressive 32-year career. But, believe it or not, Ehteshami hails from a very small desert village in southeastern Iran, where a mere 27 families and 97 people reside. Equipped with a dream, as well as his mother’s instructions, Ehteshami arrived in the United States to make good on his promise to “go make planes.” Today, he and his wife, Zari, are ensuring the success of UC students much like themselves through the establishment of the Mohammad and Zari Ehteshami Family Scholarship Fund.

The Mohammad and Zari Ehteshami Family Scholarship Fund generously provides one UC student with a $25,000 scholarship, awarding $5,000 every academic year for five years. Support preference will be given to UC students who are of Iranian descent and those who are enrolled in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy or the College of Medicine. Mohammad and Zari also generously remembered this scholarship in their estate plans, in such a way as to ensure a tremendous, enduring impact on UC students for generations to come.

Faced with the strong likelihood of becoming a pistachio farmer, Ehteshami realized that his future was entirely up to himself and that it would be whatever he wanted to make of it. And so he swiftly began learning English and applied for a student visa at the U.S. Consulate in the city of Shiraz. In 1978, he came to America and began studying mechanical engineering at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

He quickly learned, however, that his financial challenges and part-time jobs as a cab driver and construction worker simply would not provide him the support necessary for living in the Boston area. Ehteshami left Massachusetts after two years and hitchhiked to Norfolk, Virginia, where he enrolled at Old Dominion University and completed his bachelor of science in mechanical engineering in 1982. He went on to UC's CEAS to earn his master’s degree in 1985.

“I thought to myself, ‘Cincy was a great place, much more economical and a wonderful home to raise a family,’” Ehteshami said.

Ehteshami moved into Scioto Hall on campus and studied under the guidance of his mentor and advisor Ernest L. Hall, PhD, PE, and CEAS professor emeritus of mechanical engineering and computer science.

Ehteshami (right) inside GE’s flying test bed. photo/GE Aviation
Ehteshami (right) inside GE’s flying test bed. photo/GE Aviation

“UC CEAS mechanical engineering gave me a significant leg up. In a time long before we had GPS and Google Maps, we were putting OmniVision on a lawn mower, just trying to make it detect its physical location in regards to marked locations,” Ehteshami said.

After graduating from UC, he held three jobs before joining GE Aviation.

“I wasn’t looking for a job. I was looking for satisfaction. A few weeks after I joined GE, I told my wife that I found my place and that I’d either retire, get fired or die in this job, but I wasn’t quitting. Today, I still tell her that I haven’t worked one day in my life. I’ve been having too much fun.”

He now carries more than 32 years of experience at GE Aviation. He began as a design engineer in 1984 and most recently, in his role as vice president and general manager of engineering, he oversaw the design, development, certification and field services of the commercial and military engines.

At GE Aviation, Ehteshami worked on big engines as well as small ones, like the one for the HondaJet. During the Reagan-era, he designed parts for the B-1 bomber engine. He moved to France for two years and to Italy for four years, then moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, for two more.

Nothing has compared to Ehteshami’s work on the GE90 for Boeing’s 777 plane, which turned out to be the largest and most powerful jet engine in history.

“It was the most demanding. We started in 1989 and were on a very tight deadline and there were many humbling moments. It’s been 27 years since then and it is doing well. That project made me a better person. It is what enabled GEnx, LEAP and Passport engines," he said.

Among his proudest GE accomplishments are engines for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the A320 Airbus and the Chinese C919.

“No other manufacturer has carbon-fiber composite blades in service and we are already on the fourth generation. If you look out to 2030 (and beyond) the future of planes could be anything: from engines with open rotors to parts and materials that are hidden – like coatings – that will make engines more efficient," Ehteshami said. "We will be building more-efficient and more-durable engines using additive manufacturing that will allow airlines to keep them on wing longer.”

Looking to the future, Ehteshami says his next fulfilling project undoubtedly will be his new role at GE. He recently assumed the position of vice president and general manager of GE Additive, in which he will represent GE's vision for additive manufacturing. This endeavor embarks on a new era of design and manufacturing at GE, calling upon all of its industrial businesses, including power, aviation, transportation, oil and gas, and healthcare.

For his remarkable leadership and significant contributions to the field of mechanical engineering, Ehteshami was bestowed the 2017 UC CEAS Outstanding Alumni Award by the UC Alumni Association at the UC Distinguished Alumni Celebration on Thursday. Additionally, in October of 2016, Ehteshami received the CEAS 2016 Herman Schneider Distinguished Alumnus Award for his “dedication to the field of engineering and his extraordinary perseverance in pursuit of becoming the best.” It is often said that Ehteshami exemplifies what the late UC Dean Herman Schneider, inventor of the nation's first co-op program, had always looked for in his students – the resolution to pursue experience and knowledge that will equip them for challenges that arise within industry.

Ehteshami receiving the 2017 UC CEAS Outstanding Alumni Award by the UC Alumni Association at the UC Distinguished Alumni Celebration on April 20, 2017.
Ehteshami receiving the 2017 UC CEAS Outstanding Alumni Award by the UC Alumni Association at the UC Distinguished Alumni Celebration on April 20, 2017.

And since he and his wife are both UC alumni (Zari graduated from the UC James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy in 2001), the Ehteshami’s are looking forward to the opportunity to give back to UC and the community via their new scholarship fund.

“When I came to America, I really had very little money. I had no support," Ehteshami said. "My wife and I have discussed this often and feel we have both been very blessed. You change the society one human at a time. This is how education has changed me and now we want to give something back.”

In addition to the college, the university and GE, Ehteshami also credits his mother for his success in the pursuit of an education and career in “plane-making.”

“You know," Ehteshami said chuckling, "My mom said to me just the other day, ‘These are all great engines but these aren’t the planes!’”

It is through the generosity and support of the Mohammad and Zari Ehteshami Family Scholarship Fund that UC students undoubtedly will continue making “just the right” planes, for many generations to come.