Zalesky estate commitment for Health and Humanitarian Logistics will help improve disaster relief efforts

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After the initial shock of hearing about a catastrophe wears off, the first thing that most people want to know is, “How can I help?” 

The Center for Health and Humanitarian Logistics in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) has become a key global player in helping to ensure that disaster relief supplies—food, clean water, medicine, etc.—arrive at their intended destination as quickly and efficiently as possible. In addition to developing methodologies and technologies to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid to disaster sites around the world, the Center is also fostering increased planning for disaster relief and the effective execution of humanitarian efforts.

Additional research focuses on developing concepts and tools for optimizing healthcare delivery processes by applying cutting-edge supply chain engineering principles to the design of healthcare delivery systems. The Center works with government and non-government organizations, particularly those in developing countries.

The Center’s long-term viability and effectiveness has received a significant boost thanks to a recent seven-figure estate commitment from Richard E. “Rick” Zalesky Jr., also known as “Zaz”, CE 1978, and Charlene Oxford Zalesky, HS 1977. In addition to their estate provision, the Zaleskys have also pledged ongoing annual support for the center, which allows them to see the tremendous impact of their giving during their lifetimes.

After reading about the Center’s work in 2009, the Zaleskys inquired about how they might learn more and provide support.  Soon afterwards, the Zalekys met with the Center’s three co-directors and co-founders, Ozlem Ergun, associate professor in ISyE, Pinar Keskinocak, the Joseph C. Mello Professor of ISyE, and Julie Swann, the Harold R. and Mary Anne Nash Professor of ISyE, to find out more about the Center’s projects and collaborative work.

The Zaleskys were very excited to learn how basic industrial engineering techniques were being utilized to help humanitarian organizations throughout the world improve their effectiveness.

“Any technical university can present papers showcasing their models and academic proposals.  However, Ozlem, Julie, and Pinar have created something truly outstanding. They collaborate to bring people, technology, and innovation together to make a difference in our collective human condition now and into the future,” said Mr. Zalesky.

They were equally impressed that some of these organizations, such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and World Vision, were organizations they were personally supporting. 

“This meant that our philanthropic dollars were going further. Every dollar spent on preplanning and prepositioning typically results in a savings between seven and ten dollars in actual relief aid. That kind of multiplier got our attention,” said Mrs. Zalesky. 

Mrs. Zalesky attended the 2010 Health & Humanitarian Logistics Conference organized by the Center. Because she was so impressed with the collaborations and projects with high-level participants from thirteen countries, the Zaleskys decided to help sponsor the 2011 conference.  

A longtime executive with Chevron in Houston, Mr. Zalesky is a member of the Georgia Tech Advisory Board and the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Advisory Board. He was named a College of Engineering Distinguished Alumnus in 2007. Mrs. Zalesky, who holds an MBA from Golden State University in addition to her Georgia Tech degree in Health Systems, is a member of the Industrial and Systems Engineering Advisory Board. Their son, Zack, will complete his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering in the spring of 2013; and their daughter, Zola, hopes to matriculate at Tech in fall 2012.

“Georgia Tech has meant a great deal to our family over the years,” said Mr. Zalesky. “Our family actually started at Georgia Tech when Charlene and I met as Sophomores and later married in our senior year. We believe the success we have enjoyed in our careers is due in large part to the superb education we received at Georgia Tech. When you graduate with a degree from Georgia Tech, you are ready to take on the toughest challenges in any business endeavor with the confidence that you will be successful.”

When asked how she believed its affiliation with ISyE affected the Center’s ability to carry out its mission, Mrs. Zalesky responded, “We can think of no better association than the number one ISyE program in the nation.”

The ISyE community is especially grateful to the Zaleskys, not only for their philanthropic support, but also for their passionate belief in the Center’s work.   

“When you couple the hard work and dedication of the faculty and students working in health and humanitarian logistics with the support and concern for the betterment of humanity that the Zaleskys display, incredible things happen,” said Jane C. Ammons, H. Milton and Carolyn J. Stewart School Chair of Industrial and Systems Engineering. “We are so fortunate to have their involvement and we vastly appreciate how they have helped ISyE take this important education, outreach, and research to a higher level that is helping the world in countless ways.”

To inquire about making a gift or becoming involved in supporting the Center for Health and Humanitarian Logistics or any initiative within the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, contact Director of Development Nancy J. Sandlin at 404.385.7458 or

(This article first appeared in the 2011 summer issue of Campaign Quarterly.)


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Ashley Daniel
  • Created:10/12/2011
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016