Dr. Pankaj Parekh Memorial Scholarship
Pankaj was known to his friends and colleagues as a very worldly person, and for good reason. Born in Columbus, Ohio of Indian parentage, over the course of his childhood, he moved with his family to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, England, India, Pakistan, and Gambia, ultimately moving to Southern California in his early twenties. His college experience began in Canada at the University of Calgary before he moved to Los Angeles and enrolled at UCLA. Originally, he considered child psychiatry, then due to the influence and mentoring of a Nobel Laureate Professor, who impressed upon him about the critical needs of developing countries, he focused on public health. Having been exposed to the challenges of emerging nations as a youth living abroad, he took on this new focus with a passion, earning an M.S. in Public Health and D. Env. in Environmental Science. He took this knowledge to Africa, where he spent 13 years developing primary health care programs for a number of governments.
Pankaj spent 28 years with the LADWP, rising to the position of Director of Water Quality and ultimately Assistant to the General Manager of the Water System. Throughout his years, he gained national stature as an advocate for improving drinking water quality. He skillfully and eloquently communicated water quality issues with the larger public health perspective, bringing a pragmatic approach to managing drinking water impurities. Rather than focusing on regulations to address individual contaminants, his philosophy called for a comprehensive public health approach. Pankaj was a consummate professional, but what endeared him to his many colleagues, co-workers, professional associates, friends and family was his sense of fun, good-natured spirit and ability to be both a team player and a leader.
Melinda Rho Memorial Scholarship
A strong female science and engineering leader, Melinda dedicated her career at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to making drinking water safe and trustworthy. In the words of her colleagues, Melinda was a "compass for public health". She began her career at LADWP in 1980 as a Project Coordinator for the Mono Lake Research Program, she later worked in the Water Quality Division Regulatory Affairs Section advocating for legislative and water policy development, and planned for the containment, clean up and restoration of LA 's contaminated groundwater sources. She retired in 2017 as Senior Manager in the Water Quality Division after 37 years of public service.