$25 million gift for the College of Engineering makes anonymous
couple the largest individual benefactors in Marquette history
Released: Dec. 18, 2006
The Marquette University College of Engineering has received a gift commitment of more than $25 million as the first part of a legacy grant that could provide the university with an additional future $1 million a year in perpetuity, Marquette President Robert A. Wild announced Monday.
The gift is from an engineering alumnus and his wife who have asked to remain anonymous and “who have given anonymously and generously to the university in the past,” Wild said. Julie Tolan, vice president of University Advancement, said the $25 million gift, given through their private foundation, brings to nearly $50 million the amount the couple has given to Marquette, making them the largest single benefactors in the university’s history.
Wild said that the gift was made to act as a “spark plug” to help transform the engineering school and that, if such a transformation takes place, the couple’s foundation would consider extending the grant to provide $1 million annually in perpetuity. “That commitment of long-term future funding – literally forever – is unprecedented,” Tolan said.
Wild cited the benefactors’ commitment to Catholic education and desire to give back to both Marquette and the engineering profession as reasons for the continued financial support. “Their past gifts have been a catalyst for immense change and improvement at Marquette and this one should indeed help to transform the College of Engineering,” he said.
Wild quoted the benefactors as saying they hoped the legacy grant would “act as an incentive to spur the entire university to transform itself for the better and, therefore, contribute to making the world a better place for all of mankind.”
The $25 million gift is part of a broader fund-raising initiative to “transform the College of Engineering through endowed scholarships and faculty positions, an enhanced curriculum, extensive research opportunities and completion of a Discovery Learning Complex with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment,” Wild said. The benefactors, he noted, hope the gift “inspires others to help fund the bold initiatives that will position the College of Engineering as the premiere Catholic institution in the nation for engineering education.”
Stanley Jaskolski, Opus Dean of Marquette’s College of Engineering, noted the importance of engineering education in today’s world, with the demand for innovation growing at the same time that there are 60,000 fewer engineering students in American colleges and universities than there were a decade ago. “Engineers are a leading force in driving technological innovation,” he said. “Our nation cannot continue to succeed economically without focusing on technological creativity.”
Jaskolski, who became dean in 2003 after a career both in academia and industry, said Marquette faculty members are redefining engineering education to make it “more entrepreneurial, more inter-disciplinary, more open-ended in terms of problem solving and more global in its outreach.” He said the result will “fundamentally alter the way engineering students learn.” Among the major changes he envisions is having students involved in research beginning in their freshman year. “It is the research -- what happens in the discovery of possible solutions to problems -- that excites students,” he said. “We need to capture that excitement early and then teach our students how to be leaders in searching for solutions for today’s problems.”
Jaskolski is organizing three clusters within the College of Engineering to focus attention across disciplines on real-world problems. “We want to link the theory of the classroom to integrated, problem-solving behavior,” he said. “Teamwork, creative problem solving, collaboration and communication are critical skills for engineers.” He is recruiting faculty members and graduate students from other departments and even other institutions to work on issues related to sustainable engineering, neurosystems and security and safety.
In the sustainable engineering cluster, Jaskolski foresees the possibility of finding ways to eliminate waste and making everything recyclable. The neurosystems cluster will involve improving and developing systems for the brain. “It will build upon Marquette’s existing faculty expertise in neuroimaging, neuroscience, neurorehabilitation, robotics and implantable devices,” the dean said. Engineers will work with faculty from the College of Health Sciences and the Departments of Biological Science and Chemistry. The security and safety cluster will concentrate on developing sensors, communication devices and detection systems to enhance security and safety systems worldwide.
“Transformation takes time,” Wild said, “but we have the vision and momentum to move forward. I expect this gift to drive change not only in the College of Engineering but throughout the university. Moreover, a gift of this magnitude will ensure continued growth and innovation within the college.”
The gift continues the momentum for change in the College of Engineering since Jaskolski became dean in 2003. Jaskolski pledged to wear a pair of Marquette-colored blue-and-gold shoes, specially designed for him by Allen-Edmonds Corp., until he raised $1 million for endowed scholarships. He reached that goal last year. Now the shoes are encased in the College of Engineering, and Jaskolski wears a pair of blue-and-gold sprint shoes as he “sprints” toward his goals of more endowed scholarships, endowed chairs to attract the best possible faculty and an engineering complex. The complex he envisions will house state-of-the-art labs to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, provide space for regional and national seminars and conferences and foster cutting edge research.
Earlier this year the college announced a $5 million gift from Robert C. Greenheck, chairman emeritus of the board and co-founder of Greenheck Fan Corporation in Schofield, Wis., to create the Robert C. Greenheck Chair in Engineering Design. The chair will emphasize the importance of design and problem-solving activities throughout the college’s four-year curriculum.
“Our alumni recognize that in our changing world engineering education must also change,” Jaskolski said.
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