Menakka and Essel Bailey Create New Graduate Fellowship

The new graduate fellowship will enable American students to pursue research, field work, cultural experience, or other study relevant to their graduate degrees in South or Southeast Asia (excluding China or Japan), with preference given to the areas of public health, health care, or environmental work. The Menakka and Essel Bailey Graduate Fellowship provides up to two grants of $2,000-$5000 each. The fellowships are supported through an endowment gift made early in 2011, and matched by the President’s Donor Challenge. The first fellowship awardees will be announced in April 2012.

Menakka Bailey grew up in a Sri Lankan family that strongly valued public service. During the late 1950’s her father, Oliver Weerasinghe, came to New York to serve with the United Nations as a consultant and town planner to various countries developing more and better housing in the post war period. In 1965 he was named Sri Lankan ambassador to the United States and served in that capacity in Washington until 1974. From 1956-65, her mother, Christobel Weerasinghe, was a representative at the United Nations for the World Federation of the United Nations Association and also created a series of multi-national written and recorded cultural materials for adults and children. Throughout her life, Christobel Weerasinghe promoted international understanding and cross-cultural dialogue, as well as women’s advancement. In 2004, Menakka Bailey honored her mother by creating the Christobel Kotelawela Weerasinghe Fund. The fund allows CEW to bring to campus international speakers who are scholars, activists and public servants in order help to promote global understanding. Menakka, too, has worked toward gender equality and international understanding. As an employee of the University of Michigan, she did early work bringing together U-M faculty members dedicated to conducting research on women and gender. She has served on several non-profit boards including Planned Parenthood and is a dedicated supporter of the Center for the Education of Women. Menakka now works with her husband in private investments.

Essel Bailey, Jr., an attorney, corporate executive and private investor is currently, with Menakka, a Managing Director of Alpha Capital, Inc., a private investment firm. He serves on the boards of nonprofit organizations related to mental health and hospice services and is a Trustee of the Michigan Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. Mr. and Mrs. Bailey are directors and owners of companies engaged in commercial real estate, health care for the elderly, and pharmacy services.