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Family honors legacy of Jacobs School alumnus Sho Funai with an endowed prize

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Sho Funai passed away in March 2012. 

Sho earned a bachelor’s and master’s in structural engineering from UC San Diego
San Diego, Calif., April 11, 2017 -- By the age of 23, Sho Funai had already embarked on a promising engineering career. His research contributed to aspects of safely using composite materials such as those found on the newest Boeing aircraft.  After graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s in structural engineering at the University of California San Diego, he went on to earn a master’s at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego and started working full time at Goodrich Aerostructures. He was weeks away from submitting his master’s thesis on impact damage to composite materials when his life, full of promise was cut short in a hit and run collision in March 2012.

The Funai family wanted to honor Sho’s legacy. They created an endowment through the Sho Funai Educational Foundation that will award $1,000 each year in perpetuity to a high achieving graduate student in structural engineering that embodies the same generosity towards others and curiosity towards the world that Sho did.

“UCSD played an important role in Sho’s life. We wanted to honor a student each year who was not only an exceptional student, but also someone who reminded us of him–whether that be through her passion for her life purpose or his commitment to serving others. We wanted to commemorate Sho’s life by celebrating someone who maybe showed exceptional kindness or inspiration. In other words, someone who worked deliberately at both one’s resume and eulogy virtues,” said Sho’s brother, Daisuke Funai.

Hyonny Kim, Sho’s graduate advisor, and head of the Sho Funai Impact Research Facility at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, hopes the prize “can be something that serves as an impactful acknowledgement and recognition to successful students like Sho—particularly master’s students.”

This is the first prize of its kind for the department that is inclusive of both master’s and Ph.D. students.

Joaquin Marquez, a second year Ph.D. student, was the inaugural winner of the Sho Funai Endowed Prize in Structural Engineering on Dec. 1, 2016. 

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From left to right: Anjana, Daisuke, Yuji and Kazue Funai, Joaquin Marquez, inaugural winner of the Sho Funai Endowed Prize, and Jacobs School structural engineering professors Gilberto Mosqueda, Hyonny Kim and Benson Shing, who chairs the Department of Structural Engineering at UC San Diego. 

“This prize is very humbling to me, and I greatly appreciate the generosity of the Funai family,” said Marquez. “Being selected for the prize really feels like I am being selected to honor Sho and being trusted to celebrate his memory in a lasting way.”

In addition to excelling at his schoolwork, Marquez co-founded a non-profit organization with a close friend, after both shared similar hardships in their transitions from underfunded high schools. The Excelsior Initiative leverages STEM education as a means to help vulnerable student populations.

“I will be using this money for the nonprofit to keep improving it and reaching out to more people in a spirit that will continually compound the generosity of the Funai family. Many students drop out of college because they are underprepared, lack access to resources, and face unique social and psychological challenges,” said Marquez. “We wanted to create the Excelsior Initiative to help students by providing them with individualized mentoring, specific step-by-step information, and contacts for research and extracurricular opportunities to ensure that they thrive at the college level.”

The family was “thrilled that the inaugural prize went to such a deserving and inspirational young man,” said Sho’s brother Daisuke. “To us, Joaquin is the type of student who embodies the passion and inspiration we were looking for.”

The Jacobs School of Engineering is proud to honor Sho’s legacy with the Sho Funai Endowed Prize in Structural Engineering, which will benefit countless students from such a generous gesture in honor of a truly impactful individual.

For more information on how you can contribute to the legacy of Sho Funai, or how you can honor someone through a prize or gift at UC San Diego, please contact Kristi Ingles at (858) 246-1179 or kingles@eng.ucsd.edu

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Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-822-0899
ipatrin@ucsd.edu

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