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Cover of the Spring 2008 issue


VOL. 34, NO. 3





Coming soon: Business for engineers

For seven consecutive years, college faculty, staff and students have reported more than 100 patent disclosures. During the fiscal year 2008, 134 patent applications were filed and 45 patents issued.

Independent business skills are more important than ever to engineers who want to bring their innovations to market.

The College of Engineering course Business for Engineers, the Schoofs Prize for Creativity, the Tong Prototype Prize, and the Tong Biomedical Engineering Design Awards competition are among a growing number of opportunities for College of Engineering students to learn to navigate industry or start companies based on their innovations. Thanks to new gifts from two generous alumni, these opportunities will become an even bigger part of the engineering curriculum in the future.

Gifts from the Duane (BSChE ’55) and Dorothy Bluemke and John Wilson (BSME ’43) and his wife Jane are laying the foundation for a certificate program in entrepreneurship for engineers. This program, in conjunction with an engineering degree from UW-Madison, will produce engineers focused on collaborative, entrepreneurial, real-world projects with a balance of theoretical and practical education for 21st-century applications.

Duane Bluemke held a number of positions before building his own successful company. Commercial know-how is crucial for pushing design ideas to their full potential, he says. “Without business skills, an engineer has to depend on others to put the ideas he develops into practice,” he says.

The Bluemkes, who have supported the College of Engineering with many gifts, including the Duane H. and Dorothy M. Bluemke Professorship, decided to further contribute to education in a way that would create opportunities for engineers aspiring to the commercial realm.

The Wilsons also wanted to share their belief in independent and innovative pursuits with the next generation of engineers.

An entrepreneur himself, John Wilson knows the value that business skills can have for engineers. He established the Wilson Company, which specialized in designing and building hydraulic and pneumatic systems for, as he says: “everything imaginable, from oil rigs to sewing machines.” After selling the company, Wilson helped to found a second successful business in his retirement.

The Bluemkes and the Wilsons separately met with Dean Paul Peercy to share lessons learned in their business experiences. The outcome of those meetings was that the couples’ desire to foster entrepreneurial education merged into a meaningful program. “I felt it was a unique area that hadn’t been addressed,” says Bluemke.

Peercy shares the couples’ vision for incorporating even more business education into the engineering curriculum. “It is this kind of visionary support from UW-Madison alumni and friends that will ensure the transformational impact the College of Engineering has on its students,” he says.

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