Wayne Pferdehirt, a distinguished faculty associate and program director in engineering professional development, passed away Aug. 26, 2019.
Known for his contagious enthusiasm as a Badger and his passion to help students advance in their careers, Pferdehirt joined UW-Madison in 1991 and helped establish the university’s Solid & Hazardous Waste Education Center. In that role, he provided technical assistance and training to manufacturers and local governments across Wisconsin to reduce the generation of hazardous wastes and hazardous air pollutants.
He transitioned to engineering professional development in 1998 as part of a team developing the university’s first wholly online degree, the Master of Engineering in Professional Practice (MEPP). As one of the first online engineering graduate degrees in the nation, the MEPP program became a benchmark for other institutions and programs to follow. Due to its groundbreaking design, MEPP proved that engineering professionals from around the world could obtain a rigorous graduate degree in engineering leadership, without interrupting their thriving professional careers. In 2014, MEPP was renamed the Master of Engineering Management (MEM) and continues to be one of the nation’s top-ranked online graduate degree programs. Ever a leader in innovation, he also recently directed one of EPD’s newest degree programs, the Master of Engineering in Engineering Data Analytics.
Over the past 20 years under Pferdehirt’s leadership, the MEPP/MEM program graduated more than 600 engineers who have worked in capacities ranging from project managers to chief executive officers of major organizations. In 2007, a group of MEPP alumni collaborated with him to launch a philanthropic fund to support children undergoing treatment at UW-Madison’s American Family Children’s Hospital. The fund, named Badger Pals, connects children and their families with fun activities and athletic event opportunities during the course of their treatment. Badger Pals was a cause that was very important to Pferdehirt and it will serve as an important part of his legacy.
He received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1974 and a master’s degree in civil engineering from Northwestern University in 1975. In his early career, he was a water resources engineer and environmental scientist at the Army Corp of Engineers and Argonne National Laboratory, respectively. Thereafter, he spent a decade as a consulting engineer working on solid waste in the Chicago area.