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Prashant Prabhu Receives Distinguished Alumni Award

Prashant Prabhu

By: Raymond Jones

Prashant Prabhu, one of the Wilson College of Textiles’ most accomplished graduates, received university-wide recognition on Thursday when he was honored with a “Distinguished Alumni Award.”

The recognition was granted during Thursday’s Evening of Stars Gala, an annual celebration that dates back to the early 1940s when the Alumni Association first began recognizing noteworthy graduates. The event has grown continuously in size and stature since then, in response to the increasing number of graduates excelling in a growing variety of fields.

This year’s recipients represented the university’s various colleges, as well as the Wolfpack Club.

Born in Bombay, Prabhu completed his undergraduate education in India, having majored in both chemistry and textile chemistry. After conducting a comprehensive search to find an appropriate graduate program in the United States, he landed at the Wilson College in 1975.

He went on to earn an M.S. in Textile Chemistry in 1977 and a Ph.D. in Fiber and Polymer Science in 1979.

Prabhu says that graduate school in America proved to be a vastly different experience than his educational pursuits in India. “The Indian system,” he says, “is totally a rote-based system. While it prepares a person well to succeed in taking examinations, it does not prepare one well for the type of inquiry-based process I discovered at NC State.”

“I truly value the experience I had at Wilson, because I had many opportunities not only to challenge myself but to challenge accepted methodologies. I credit my instructors for always encouraging me to ask questions and follow my curiosity. This gave me a great advantage throughout my career as both a scientist and as a business leader.”

After completing his studies at the Wilson College, Prabhu embarked on a 35-year career with the Michelin Group, which began at the Michelin America Research and Development Corporation in Greenville, S.C. By the age of 45 he had become president of that division.

Then, after many years in research and development, he moved overseas to assume responsibility for Michelin’s earthmover and industrial tires global business unit, based in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

He held that position for five years, and then accepted an assignment to establish a Michelin manufacturing facility in India. He supervised the India start-up from his base in Singapore, while serving as head of Michelin Asia-Pacific. He later moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he headed up Michelin Africa-India-Middle East.

Subsequent responsibilities included full-time oversight of Michelin’s “global incubator program,” which he directed initially from Dubai and later, starting in 2014, from Greenville, S.C. He retired from Michelin that same year and has since remained active teaching international business at Clemson University and mentoring business entrepreneurs throughout the region. He has also been recognized for his generous philanthropic support of the Wilson College of Textiles.

David Hinks, dean of the college, describes Prabhu as one of Wilson’s “most impactful” master’s and doctoral graduate alumni. “Not only has he substantially advanced the research and development of fiber and polymer science through his work at Michelin,” Hinks says, “but he epitomizes NC State’s ‘Think and Do’ mindset.

“Prashant Prabhu is a lifelong learner who continually gives back by supporting the journeys of those less experienced than himself. His continuing achievements as an educator, mentor and philanthropist are simply extraordinary, and I am so very proud to be able to call him an alumnus of the Wilson College of Textiles.”

Prabhu has received numerous honors over the years, but says this new award stands out because of the role NC State played in shaping his personal and professional growth. “I feel that I should be presenting an honor to NC State, not receiving one,” he says. “My career path simply would not have been possible without the educational experience I had at the Wilson College. The more time goes on, the more I realize how truly privileged I have been.”

Recipients of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Awards, Wolfpack Club Awards and Alumni Association Awards were lauded for enriching NC State’s history and enhancing the value of an NC State degree. Prabhu joins a list of well known and high-achieving individuals that includes such names as William Friday, General Hugh Shelton, Bill Cowher, Jim Valvano and former Governor James B. Hunt Jr.