Pursuit of Learning

Dick Sarns and his wife, Norma, establish the Dick and Norma Sarns Bioengineering Scholarship for Excellence

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icon of a calendarDecember 15, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Arina Bokas

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Dick Sarns, the founder and retired CEO of NuStep, an Ann Arbor-based company that specializes in exercise equipment for people with limited mobility, is easily one of the most well-regarded developers in Michigan medical technology. Recently, his vision for helping individuals transform their lives by experiencing a more fulfilling lifestyle has found another application. Sarns and his wife, Norma, have established the Dick and Norma Sarns Bioengineering Scholarship for Excellence to enable OU students to transform their own lives, and those of others, through quality education.

The decision to establish the scholarship stems from the Sarns’s own life-long pursuit of learning and scientific discovery. Dick Sarns’s pioneering work in biomedical engineering resulted in two honorary Doctor of Engineering degrees (Eastern Michigan University, 1980; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2012), as well as numerous technological advances that improved surgical outcomes and mobility for countless patients around the world.

Constantly striving for improvements and following latest research developments, Dick and Norma Sarns founded two still-thriving biomedical companies. While Sarns Inc. played a vital role in developing an innovative heart-lung machine for cardiac bypass surgery, when studies supporting exercise for cardiac patients emerged, the Sarns focused their efforts on developing exercise products for cardiac rehabilitation. As a result, NuStep was born.

NuStep products are an example of life-enhancing devices that near future will necessitate. “As our population ages and age-related diseases dominate the medical field, healthcare is definitely moving into a device mode. This makes bioengineering extremely important,” Sarns explains.

The Sarns’s charitable contribution to Oakland University was received in February of 2021, which allowed it to establish OU’s first bioengineering scholarship.

“The pandemic has adversely impacted our students in all aspects of their developmental years, particularly in financial terms that may continue to last in the foreseeable future,” states Shailesh Lal, Ph.D., the chair of the bioengineering department. “In this regard, we are grateful for this kind gesture, which will allow our students to make learning their priority in these challenging times.”

Starting in the fall of 2022, the scholarship is to be awarded to an in-state undergraduate student within the School of Engineering and Computer Science who majors in bioengineering, maintains a minimum 3.0 GPA and demonstrates financial need.

“I had the pleasure of working with many OU alumni – all of whom spoke highly of OU’s engineering program. SECS gives students not just a degree but solid hands-on education and a foundation for continuous learning and exploration, without which innovation is not possible,” Sarns says.

As bioengineering will enable developments with the capacity to improve the quality of human life, the Sarns’s hope is that with their help more talented future inventors will begin their own pursuit of learning.

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