Alumni Family's Donation Shows Great Appreciation for Engineering Education

At a school on the University of San Diego campus where things are always in development and always taking shape, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering’s renamed Belanich Engineering Center — formerly Loma Hall — had additional name recognition on Thursday.

Robbibaros

Phillip and Michelle Robbibaro, parents of two recent USD engineering alumni, Ryan and Eric Robbibaro, provided a generous gift to the school that, in turn, will now feature their name — “Phillip and Michelle Robbibaro Family” — above the faculty office of Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Bryan Cornwall, PhD, PEng, on the first floor.

The gesture of having their name visibly affixed to USD’s engineering school and, notably in view of one of the more active areas within the Belanich Engineering Center is not a coincidence.

“The way Michelle and I saw this was that it was perhaps the best way for us to be able to give back to the university for what they provided our sons,” Phillip said. “They did an outstanding job in creating a complete engineer.”

At a small celebration for the Robbibaros to view their name on the faculty office space, they were joined by one of their sons, Ryan, a 2018 Mechanical Engineering alumnus, who is now a sales engineer at Huntington Beach, Calif., based The Lee Company. His brother, Eric, a 2016 Electrical Engineering alumnus, is a sales engineer at Oriental Motor USA in Los Angeles, but was unable to attend.

Both young men followed their father’s lead academically — Phillip has mechanical and electrical engineering degrees to his credit — and both took advantage of opportunities at USD to be involved in fraternities and engineering organizations.

“My background is engineering and seeing the way USD handles its programs and the personal attention that’s given to the students really impressed me,” Phillip said. “Knowing what they were learning, keeping up with them as they went through their years here, we were really impressed with the program and impressed with the staff. We had the opportunity to get to know Chell (Roberts, dean of the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering) and the faculty. The (department chair) of the Electrical Engineering program was a great mentor to my son, Eric. This university has been a great part of our sons’ lives for four years each.”

Indeed, Ryan Robbibaro was pleased to be back on campus, even saying hello to few former classmates and professors. Both Dr. Cornwall and Dr. Jay Kunin had Ryan in their respective classes. Ryan Robbibaro was also beaming at the sight of his parents’ gift to the engineering school.

“I have limitless memories of my time here at USD,” said Ryan, whose capstone project was for Hive Sounds, a project to design a portable speaker that gives users a chance to play one unified audio signal via Bluetooth or WIFI.

As stated before, the space where the Robbibaros’ name is located looks out at the rest of the extension of the Belanich Engineering Center completed in 2018. The annex space includes classrooms, meeting rooms, faculty and staff offices and an inviting outdoor patio area where students can enjoy some sunshine as they study or just relax. The classrooms on this particular day were used by engineering seniors working on their capstone design projects and first-year engineering students still getting acclimated to what’s ahead of them as they pursue the signature dual BS/BA degree program. Later, students from the new Master of Science in Cybersecurity Engineering degree program were scheduled for a class meeting.

It's definitely an active space where the future of USD engineering can blossom.

“We feel very good about this, we’re proud to be part of it,” Phillip said. “Being able to leave our (signage) mark on the university, I want that to be something my sons can one day bring their children to see. If their kids come to USD and see that we’ve been part of this for a long time, I think that would mean a great deal to them. It certainly means a lot to Michelle and I.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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