Distinguished Engineer Citations
B.S., Electrical Engineering – 1985
At Time of Nomination in 2014
Erna Grasz attended Texas Tech and graduated in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. She earned a Master of Science in electrical engineering and engineering management from Santa Clara University in 1990, and she has several executive leadership and management training certificates from Stanford, MIT Sloan, and UCLA.
As an experienced executive, Grasz established a reputation as a strategic leader with demonstrated success in diverse industries, including medical device, defense research, and semiconductor capital equipment. She previously worked as a program manager at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; general manager-vice president at KLA-Tencor; vice president of research and development for Tyco Healthcare - Nellcor, Mallinckrodt Division; and general Manager and VP of R&D at Philips Healthcare.
Grasz co-founded Asante Africa Foundation in 2006 with two African women she met while in Tanzania and Kenya on travel. In 2010, she left the corporate world to manage the organization full time. Her strong leadership and business skills are the foundation of her transition to non-profit work: gather a group of talented individuals, give them a vision and mission to rally around, and then the impossible is achievable. As CEO of Asante Africa Foundation, she has transformed a three-country organization since its inception of one student in one community to one that currently impacts over 36,000 students and 39 communities in two countries and is poised for greater growth. Beyond the numbers however, Grasz has been the visionary for many of the organizations innovative programs and practices that impact students and communities far beyond those who are only in school. Her strong belief in local staff and partnerships and developing local talent through concepts such as Tuka Pa Moja (we are together), Lead Together - Side by Side, and Pay it Forward are setting standards for how development organizations should engage with communities where they work. Grasz also initiated the highly sought after Leadership and Entrepreneurship Incubator which focuses on developing leadership talent in youth and preparing them for income generation initiatives. Knowing that the best tools and materials will have little impact on students if educators do not have the knowledge and skills, Grasz is also passionate about strengthening educators and what happens in the classroom.
Grasz leads global management teams in Kenya, Tanzania, U.S., and Canada. In 2013 she was the recipient of the Jefferson Award for public service and has spoken on numerous global panels on leadership, innovative education programs, and philanthropy. She is an award-winning speaker with Toastmasters International and has published numerous articles on leadership, communication skills, and project management. Grasz also mentors young people locally as well as globally as part of her Pay it Forward philosophy.