A California couple has pledged $5 million to the Marquette University College of Engineering to establish an endowed chair in secure and renewable energy systems, Opus Dean of Engineering Stan Jaskolski announced at a Marquette alumni event in San Jose, Calif., last night (Wednesday).
“Our gift will have a lasting impact in attracting new talent to the pursuit of renewable energy/sustainability solutions at an institution we believe will make a difference,” said Thomas H. Werner, chief executive officer of SunPower Corporation. “My wife Suzanne and I believe both in the power of education and in the importance of scholarship and research in engineering and applied science.”
Tom Werner earned his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Marquette in 1986 and was named the college’s Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 2007. SunPower designs, manufactures and delivers high-performance solar electric systems worldwide for residential, commercial and utility-scale power plant customers. With headquarters in San Jose, Calif., SunPower has offices in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.
Prior to joining SunPower in 2003, Werner was the CEO of Silicon Light Machines, Inc., an optical solutions subsidiary of Cypress Semiconductor Corporation. He previously served as an executive of 3Com’s Business Connectivity Group, Oak Industries Inc. and General Electric Co. Werner, 49, holds an MBA from George Washington University and is a board member of Cree Inc. and Silicon Valley Leadership Group. He was named Northern California Entrepreneur of the Year in 2007.
Suzanne Werner is an active community volunteer, working with local libraries, United Way agencies and soup kitchens. She serves on the board of directors and as a tutor for JustREAD, a volunteer literacy program serving high school and middle school students.
“Sustainable energy is fundamental to our quality of life. We must, from both an industrial and educational perspective, address the issues of energy consumption and find ways to facilitate energy production from renewable energy sources,” Jaskolski said. “The Thomas H. and Suzanne M. Werner Chair in Secure and Renewable Energy Systems will position Marquette as a leader in this area for southeastern Wisconsin.”
Jaskolski said the new chair will lead a multidisciplinary research cluster of four to six faculty and develop a cutting-edge curriculum. “Given student interest in sustainability and the environment, I expect this program to attract both undergraduates and graduate students,” he said. “We will continue to emphasize the importance of knowledge-based innovation as students work with faculty to pursue such practical applications as solar electric energy generation, modern electric drives and the design of products that make energy consumption more efficient.”
The Werner Chair is the third faculty chair endowed for the College of Engineering in the past three years. In January 2007 Jim and Kelly McShane of Chicago, 1968 Marquette alumni, donated $5 million for the McShane Chair in Construction Engineering Management. McShane leads the McShane Companies, a diversified organization comprised of various real estate development and construction companies. Robert C. Greenheck, chairman of the board of the Greenheck Fan Corp. in Schofield, Wis., in May 2006 endowed the Greenheck Chair in Engineering Design. In addition, in 2003 the Opus Corporation gave $5 million to endow the deanship of the College of Engineering, a position currently held by Jaskolski.
“This is a new era in engineering education,” Jaskolski said. “We’re changing our curriculum and adding game-changing faculty to educate engineers who are problem solvers, innovators and leaders in our global society.”
Since returning to Marquette as dean in 2003 after a career in both academia and industry, Jaskolski has raised more than $100 million for the College of Engineering, including millions for student scholarships and more than $62 million toward construction of a new $100 million engineering facility.
Marquette experts can offer expertise and insights on hundreds of topics by helping you over the phone, sitting down for an interview or providing background to give a story more context.