Advancing educational excellence in physical therapy: The Sudha Agrawal Memorial Endowment

The Sudha Agrawal Memorial Endowment has made a significant impact on Ohio University's Physical Therapy program, supporting initiatives to foster intellectual curiosity, professional excellence, and unwavering dedication to the field.

January 17, 2024


Since its establishment last year, the Sudha Agrawal Memorial Endowment has already made a meaningful impact for Ohio University’s Physical Therapy program, and it will continue to do so for years to come.

Through a generous $1 million donation from Ohio University emeritus professor Ashok Gupta in honor of his late wife Sudha, the endowment was created to support the Division of Physical Therapy in the College of Health Sciences and Professions.

“The scope of the endowment is a 360-degree development of the PT program,” said Dr. Gupta. “We focus on students. We focus on faculty. We focus on alumni and other clinicians who are in the area that want to improve through continuing education programs.” 

Echoing Dr. Gupta's emphasis on the endowment's comprehensive impact, Gary Chleboun, Program Director and Professor Emeritus of Physical Therapy, expressed his gratitude for the endowment's establishment.

“We are incredibly grateful for establishing the Endowment to honor Sudha. Dr. Gupta’s commitment to advancing the mission and vision of the Division of Physical Therapy and enriching the lives of our students, faculty and alumni is nothing short of remarkable.”

The endowments initiatives supporting success

At its core, the endowment supports four initiatives for the academic year, each designed to nurture intellectual curiosity, professional excellence, and unwavering dedication to the field of physical therapy.

Agrawal Lecture series:

The Agrawal Lecture Series was created to inspire and educate the next generation of physical therapists who are as passionate about helping people as Sudha Agrawal was. The 2024 lecture series will take place Jan. 25-26 and will feature guest speaker Dr. Gail M. Jensen, PT, PhD, FAPTA, FNAP. Dr. Jensen is Vice Provost for Learning and Assessment, Dean Emerita, and Professor of Physical Therapy at Creighton University. She is known nationally and internationally for scholarly contributions in expert practice, clinical reasoning, professional ethics, and interprofessional education. Both the lecture on Jan. 25 and Jan 26 are free to attend.

Continuing education courses:

Embracing the importance of continuous learning, the endowment provides high-quality, evidence-based courses accessible to physical therapists in Southeast and Central Ohio, as well as a national audience through livestreamed and recorded sessions.

A diverse group of participants, including Ohio University faculty, Ohio University Therapy Associates clinicians, alumni, and non-alumni from Southeast Ohio, attended a course titled "Introduction to Yoga as a PT Intervention" conducted by Dr. Allison Marsden.

“It was refreshing to take a course where focusing on the patient as a whole was discussed. I have been able to implement some of the breathing techniques in combination with certain movements to my practice since taking the course. I work mainly with the neurologic population, and they benefit greatly from this,” said Casey Matthews, a physical therapist who attended the course.

Awarding mini sabbaticals:

Recognizing the value of exploring new horizons, mini sabbaticals up to 3-weeks offer faculty enriching experiences that lead to improved teaching and research that promote professional growth. Reverse mini-sabbaticals would also be supported where faculty from other universities could spend up to 3-weeks with the PT faculty at OHIO.

“Because of the endowment, I gained invaluable experience during my early career research training. Following the mini sabbatical, my lab (Pediatric FUNctional Mobility (FUN) Lab) at Ohio University was added as a data collection site for an NIH funded research study, "Play and Learn Across a Year Project,” said Assistant Professor Dr. Rachel Bican. “The sabbatical has helped me progress as an independent clinical-scientist and has allowed me to collaborate with lead infant development researchers across the United States. My ultimate goal is to create novel interventions to improve motor outcomes for children with disabilities in Appalachia.”

Supporting professional development of students:

The endowment aims to provide support for physical therapy students to expand their knowledge and connect with professionals through regional/national conferences or continuing education courses.

"Most recently the endowment allowed me the opportunity to attend the Appalachian Translational Research Network (ATRN) Annual Health Summit where I had the privilege of presenting research from a recent study that I have been participating in,” said Justin Davis, a student in the physical therapy program. “Being able to present was a wonderful opportunity that has pushed my personal development as I continue on in my education and journey towards becoming a physical therapist."

Emeritus professor Ashok Gupta and John McCarthy, Dean of CHSP shaking hands with an image of Sudha Agrawal displayed on TV screen to the left.

Emeritus professor Ashok Gupta and John McCarthy, Dean of CHSP with an image of Sudha Agrawal displayed.

From designing buildings to rebuilding the human body: The inspiring origins of the endowment

The Sudha Agrawal Memorial Endowment was created in memory of Sudha Agrawal (1956-2016) by her family and friends to benefit Ohio University's Division of Physical Therapy. Sudha, an architect, moved to Athens, Ohio in 1983.

Following a car accident that resulted in a crushed femur in 1986, she underwent intense physical therapy to regain her ability to walk.

Sudha’s recovery journey inspired a new career path in physical therapy, driven by her desire to assist others in improving their quality of life. She pursued her career ambition with determination, balancing her family's priorities while dedicating herself to her studies and training at Ohio University. In 1998, at the age of 42, she achieved her goal, earning a master's in physical therapy.

For 15 years, Sudha passionately cared for her patients as a physical therapist. She retired in 2013 and passed away in 2016. Her legacy lives on through the Sudha Agrawal Memorial Endowment. This endowment supports the education of future therapists, enabling them to offer the same compassionate care Sudha provided to those in need.

Strengthening the future of physical therapy

With the endowment's support, Ohio University's physical therapy program envisions a future of innovation, attracting the brightest minds in the field.

“My long-term aspirations are that the PT department at OHIO becomes the #1 choice for students and faculty. For example, if someone is looking for a job as a PT faculty member, OHIO will be a great place to work. Or if students apply for a PT program, they choose Ohio University over others because we support them,” said Dr. Gupta.

For those interested in supporting the Sudha Agrawal Memorial Endowment’s initiatives, please contact Sarah Schneider at or to learn more about OHIO’s physical therapy program visit: