A foundation for the future
For Dean Arnold (BSCEE ’71), giving back to UW-Madison is a multifaceted experience with several highly specific purposes. One powerful motivator, he says, is making sure that Wisconsin engineers graduate with a perspective that goes beyond Wisconsin, and with the tools they’ll need to advance our built environment.
Arnold, who is a vice president at O’Neil Industries in Chicago, has supported many aspects of UW-Madison engineering education throughout his career, including a scholarship he established for civil and environmental engineering students in honor of his grandfather, alumnus and construction-company founder L.G. Arnold. He most recently made a five-year pledge to help the college renovate and expand its structures lab. The lab will help researchers develop and experimentally test new technologies for construction, and, what’s just as important for Arnold, will enable more undergraduates to get involved in research.
“When I was at UW as an undergraduate in civil engineering, one of the better educational experiences I had was when I assisted a graduate student with a research project in the structures laboratory under the direction of Professor William Saul,” Arnold says. “I assisted in making concrete ‘deep’ beams and testing them to destruction.”
It’s that kind of physical testing capacity that can make UW-Madison a leader in structural engineering, and provide undergraduates with practical experience early on. The new lab is due to be completed in 2016, adding 2,000 square feet of space and many new features to aid experimentation.
Arnold’s other big focus these days is making sure more students get the chance to have experiences abroad. “As a civil engineer working on construction projects, I worked overseas for seven years where I worked with people from all over the world,” he says. “The experiences were enlightening and widened my outlook on things global.”
The challenge is making sure Wisconsin civil engineers start to formulate that bigger perspective before they graduate. That’s why Arnold also contributes to the college Engineers Without Borders program and the international engineering studies program.
Having received scholarship support during his own time at UW-Madison, Arnold finds it fulfilling to maintain his connections with the university and build new ones. He is a regular at such events as the annual Engineers’ Day celebration and the annual Construction Club Banquet. “The Construction Club Banquet is quite the event—the student members do a great job organizing it,” he says. “The speakers are always most informative, plus there is the opportunity to network with industry counterparts and prospective employees. This past April, colleagues came with me from Chicago, and we all had a wonderful time.”
Indeed, he’s the kind of alumnus who not only takes pride in supporting future students, but genuinely looks forward to his visits back to the college. “In regard to Engineers’ Day in October, I plan to get some former classmates of mine to join me for the festivities and take in the pre-game brunch and the football game,” he adds. “All the experiences have been very meaningful to me.”