Fairfield University's School of Engineering awarded $500,000 grant by the W. M. Keck Foundation


The School of Engineering of Fairfield University has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles, Calif. The grant will yield a highly competitive level of engineering education that capitalizes on advances in technology and assures that student learning and intellectual achievement consistently break new ground.

Specifically, the grant will be used to establish new programs of study in the areas of material science, power electronics and manufacturing, and to create a network for use in Web development programs. In addition, a center for distance learning, electrical/electronics laboratories and a rapid prototyping facility for manufacturing studies will be constructed. Some of these projects are already under way; the rest will be phased in over a three-year period. Evangelos Hadjimichael, Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering, said the grant "will raise the level of engineering education to the next plateau and establish the School of Engineering as a center of excellence in Connecticut. We can now reach a larger student audience and offer a richer menu of courses to make the program more effective at both the graduate and undergraduate levels."

Existing laboratories "will be enlarged and enhanced to support our new curricula," he added, and "the Web development facility will become a new addition to McAuliffe Hall," where the School of Engineering is housed. As part of the grant, a Solar Energy Conversion Project for residential use has been designed to take place in collaboration with architects, builders and utility companies to create an environment that addresses real-world problems and emphasizes the school's commitment to continually assess the ever-changing needs for new technology.

A relative newcomer to campus, the School of Engineering was founded in the early 1990s when Dr. Hadjimichael alerted University President Rev. Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., about an opportunity to merge with the Bridgeport Engineering Institute (BEI). In 1994, the University took over the independent college whose evening programs had, since 1924, given working adults the opportunity to pursue their educational and career enrichment goals on a part time basis. "Father Kelley and Dr. Robert Wall (former academic vice president) recognized the importance of the proposal and put their weight behind it," said Dr. Hadjimichael.

Today the school has 450 students (230 graduate, 190 part-time and 30 full-time undergraduates), four full-time and more than 50 adjunct faculty members, two program directors and two associate professors, with more expected next year. "Two master's programs were established last year, became accredited in 1999 and will award the first batch of master's degrees in May 2000," said Dr. Hadjimchael proudly.

The W. M. Keck Foundation is one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations. Established in 1954 by the late William Myron Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company, the Foundation's grant-making is focused primarily in the areas of medical research, science and engineering. In 1996, Robert A. Day succeeded his uncle, the late Howard B. Keck, as chairman and president of the W. M. Keck Foundation. Under the leadership of Messrs. Keck and Day, the Foundation has bestowed more than $875 million in grants while its assets have grown from $250 million to approximately $1.4 billion today.

Dr. Hadjimichael said he is grateful to the Foundation for its award and to the Advancement Division at Fairfield University for the expertise they provided in submitting the proposal. "We expect measurable results immediately," he said.

Noel Appel, university director of foundation relations, concurs with this sentiment. "In the spirit of true collaboration, the W. M. Keck Foundation has once again provided the resources (a substantial grant to the Physics Department was received from them in 1990) to launch considerable growth at Fairfield that will reap enormous rewards for the students and the business community that we serve."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 15, 2000

Vol. 32, No. 151