Prashant Prabhu ’77, ’79 Wins Distinguished Global Alumni Award
By Kamilah Heslop
Since his time as a student at NC State, Dr. Prashant Prabhu has used his education from the Wilson College of Textiles to distinguish himself within his field and beyond. His outstanding professional and globally significant achievements truly epitomize NC State’s ‘Think and Do’ mindset.
On April 20, he was named the recipient of the 2022 Distinguished Global Alumni Award by NC State’s Office of Global Engagement. The award recognizes Prabhu’s esteemed contributions to his alma mater, success within the sustainable mobility industry and impact on the globe.
“I am deeply grateful to NC State first for providing the ideal platform for the cultural education of an international graduate student,” Prabhu, who was born in Bombay, India, says.
“Secondly, for the educational experience which has enabled my professional career. Finally, for the coincidental geographical proximity between my retirement home in South Carolina, which makes it easy to visit and relive happy memories.”
Leading in polymer science and sustainable mobility research
After acquiring his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, India, Prabhu searched extensively for the ideal institution to continue his education.
He found that tailor-made fit in Raleigh, North Carolina at the Wilson College of Textiles, where he leveraged his textile chemistry background while also exploring the college’s polymers program. In 1977, he earned a master of science degree in textile chemistry and then went on to earn his Ph.D. in fiber and polymer science in 1979.
From there, Prabhu embarked on a 35-year career with the Michelin Group, an international leader in sustainable mobility and tire manufacturing.
My career path shows the versatility of a textiles education from NC State, which enables its application to a large number of industries. It is a little-known fact that industrial textiles are used in tires. Unlike a lot of other applications, the textile reinforcements are not visible — which is actually how you want it.
– Dr. Prashant Prabhu ’77, ’79
His time with the company began at the Michelin America Research and Development Corporation in Greenville, South Carolina. By the age of 45, Prabhu 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. Prabhu held that position for five years and then accepted an assignment to establish a Michelin manufacturing facility in India. He supervised the Indian startup from his base in Singapore while serving as head of Michelin Asia-Pacific. He later moved to Dubai, where he headed up Michelin’s Africa-India-Middle East division.
In this leadership role, Prabhu’s responsibilities included full-time oversight of Michelin’s global incubator program, which he directed initially from Dubai and later, starting in 2014, from Greenville, South Carolina. He retired from Michelin that same year.
“From my very first conversation with Dr. Prabhu, I have been inspired by his humility and passion for education and giving back to society,” David Hinks, dean of the Wilson College of Textiles, says.
He is the epitome of what it means to be an NC State ‘Think and Do’ alumnus, and I’m very grateful for his commitment to supporting the community that helped shape his spirit of innovation and discovery.
– Dean David Hinks
“This award is so very well earned. I will always be so appreciative of Prashant for his impactful contributions to the university and his work in the areas of polymer science, textiles and sustainability.”
In retirement, Prabhu is teaching an international business course for the MBA program at Clemson University; it’s a course that he developed based on his personal experiences in the business world. He also serves proudly as a mentor to several startup firms within the Venture Mentoring Service developed by Greenville Next.
A lifelong member of the Wilson College family
Since graduating, Prabhu has continued to invest in his alma mater. He consistently presents to NC State classes, volunteers for the Wilson College of Textiles, engages in alumni events and virtual town halls, and gives generously to the university.
“Prashant’s dedication to mentoring and supporting the next generation of diverse leaders is so inspiring to me,” Hinks says. “He has given of his time, talent and treasure with one goal in mind: to support students from diverse backgrounds who want to advance the textiles field.”
In addition to his consistent annual giving, Prabhu and his wife Kaumudi are members of NC State’s Pullen Society. To continue their lifelong support, they have made provisions through estate planning to endow a Centennial Scholarship to be named after the late Dr. Richard Gilbert, a former Wilson College faculty member who served as Prabhu’s thesis advisor and lifelong mentor during his time on campus and beyond. Centennial Scholarships provide outstanding students with a minimum of $15,000 per year for four years and $7,500 in enrichment funds to incoming first-year students.
“I chose to name an endowed Centennial Scholarship after Dr. Gilbert to honor him and his contributions to NC State,” Prabhu says. “His cellulose chemistry research bridged a critical gap between the Wilson College of Textiles and the College of Natural Resources’ Paper Science and Engineering program.”
In addition to being named the recipient of the university’s Alexander Quarles Holladay Medal for Excellence in 2001, Gilbert was named to NC State’s Academy of Outstanding Teachers.
When asked why he steadily supports his alma mater, Prabhu says, “My professional career was enabled by my graduate education at NC State.”
“Today, I think that in a society such as the one we live in, especially in the United States, I realize how privileged I have been. An open society must expect and encourage its members to give back in any way they can. It is a very simple and humble expression of gratitude for what one has received that merits a tangible acknowledgment.”
In 2020, Prabhu received the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of his noteworthy contributions. His work has enriched the university’s history and increased the value of an NC State degree. In 2021, Prabhu was named to the board of directors of the North Carolina Textile Foundation, which helps make the extraordinary work of the Wilson College of Textiles possible.