Inside USD

Shiley’s $20M Gift Makes Engineering School a Reality

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Engineering at the University of San Diego has been an innovative, inclusive and community-minded academic entity for 25 years, but with a grassroots approach to growth and a vision of the future.

Tuesday, amid a sea of blue T-shirts, worn alike by students, faculty, staff and administrators, University of San Diego President Mary E. Lyons delivered a campus announcement that expressed the same sentiment as was printed on the t-shirts: “the future starts today.”

Philanthropist Darlene Marcos Shiley has given a $20 million gift to the university to establish the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering at USD, a “transformational gift” Lyons said, that raises the program’s profile to one of “prominence and distinction” and “become a bona fide school of engineering.”

Shiley’s gift, which is the largest amount USD has received from a single donor to the university since the late Joan B. Kroc $50 million bequest in 2003, is the latest example of generous support provided by her and late husband Donald Shiley. Previously, their gifts to support the Shiley Center for Science and Technology building, Shiley Theatre and the Master of Fine Arts graduate theatre program, have totaled more than $13 million.

“I’m enthused and inspired to do this,” said Shiley.

Engineering, currently a department within USD’s School of Business Administration and, in the past, within the College of Arts and Sciences, now has a chance to increase its visibility.

“While a school of engineering was always our vision, our charge was to grow into that with more quality programs and more students while maintaining that vision,” said Kathleen Kramer, USD’s director of engineering programs and an electrical engineering professor.

The first engineering students graduated in 1991 — “the Fabulous Five,” Kramer noted — and the program had only six faculty members under founding director, the late Thomas Kanneman. The program currently has 360 students enrolled in one of three disciplines: mechanical, electrical and industrial and systems engineering.

Kramer said enrollment has tripled in the last eight years. Several students have had a military connection, whether they’re veterans or those in the San Diego Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) program that’s housed on the USD campus.

Nonetheless, all engineering majors — there are approximately 450 engineering alumni — go through the same unique undergraduate BS/BA dual degree program.

It’s a blended degree that, Kramer said, “ensures that our graduates emerge from our programs not only as engineers of the first order, but also as complete engineers who are thoughtful, informed and engaged participants in the global community. This integrated vision of engineering is what makes a USD engineer different from your typical engineer.”

Nathan Scherrer, a senior mechanical engineer and a Navy veteran, said he feels the engineering program and its dual degree have taught him plenty. “I’ve learned that to make a difference, you have to be different.”

Donald Shiley, who invented heart valves and other life-saving medical devices, was a biomedical engineer, Darlene Shiley remarked on Tuesday. What this gift does, potentially, is give USD engineering students the chance to be future difference makers.

“For myself and the faculty, this gift, which enables us to move forward to establish a school, marks a fulfillment of our vision for engineering at USD,” Kramer said. “Thank you, Mrs. Shiley, for making this possible.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

Read the U-T article on this major announcement.

Photos by Chris Keeney

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