William S. Monfre
BSChE ’85, UW-Madison
Engineering and Manufacturing Management, Procter & Gamble (1985-2008)
President/Owner, Quality Insulators Inc. and Asbestos Removal Inc. (2008-current)
Each year, the College of Engineering recognizes outstanding alumni during Engineers’ Day—a celebration of engineers, held on Homecoming weekend. Bill Monfre is among the engineers we will honor in 2018 at an Oct. 19 banquet.
Bill enjoyed a 23-year career in engineering and manufacturing management with Procter & Gamble before leaving and purchasing his industrial mechanical insulation and asbestos abatement companies in 2008. These companies have earned numerous industry awards in areas including safety, training, performance and ethics.
We are honoring Bill as an engineer and entrepreneur whose expertise and creativity have enabled him to become a leader in his professional career.
Recently, we chatted with him about everything from his memories as a student at UW-Madison to his career and hobbies. Here are his responses to some of our questions.
Of what professional accomplishment are you most proud?
Owning my own businesses. Without a doubt. This has been a dream come true for me. My father owned his own business, and I’ve always felt that it is something I also wanted to do. I am very grateful for everything that allowed me to do this. I am also proud of my community involvement. I like working for nonprofits and am involved on a lot of different boards.
Why did you choose engineering?
When I was in high school, I worked at a hardware store. I was always intrigued by the products we sold that originated in a laboratory and then were developed into useful consumer products. I was enamored with the idea of discovering something of value and having it be used for direct application in solving problems or simply making things better. I mentioned this to my guidance counselor and she suggested I investigate chemical engineering. I recall looking through a book in her office that rated colleges by degree. UW was rated second in the country for chemical engineering. It was then and there that I decided I wanted to study chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin.
What are your fondest memories of your time on campus?
My fondest memories are of being with my girlfriend Karen (now my wife of 31 years), growing together and learning more about each other, and then ultimately getting married and having a family. And, my friends. Beyond that: football games, the Parthenon, studying in Memorial or Wendt libraries, my roommates, intramural sports, AIChE, working on the executive committee for the Engineering Expo, freshman year dorm life, and the list goes on.
How did your experience in the College of Engineering shape your career?
Because of all the different classes I was required to take, I was able to narrow in on what I really enjoyed doing. I really like unit operations, thermodynamics and physical chemistry. When I graduated, I began my career with Procter & Gamble and worked in the process technologies section of the Green Bay Engineering Center. I worked in engineering for several years and eventually moved into manufacturing management at the Green Bay site, which was a tissue paper mill and therefore a capital-intensive heavy industry.
I liked manufacturing a lot because I could still do engineering—not necessarily capital project delivery, but more process troubleshooting, streamlining and improving equipment and process efficiencies. More importantly, I was working with people, working on safety leadership, cost accounting, quality control, maintenance systems—really all the things you need to do to run an operation. I was running my own little business within Procter & Gamble.
If you had to do it all over again and pick another major outside of engineering, what would you choose?
Probably business or computer science. Knowing what I know now regarding running my own businesses, accounting is certainly the language of business, and computers are so extremely instrumental in improving productivity. Either of these disciplines would be of great value.
What are your hobbies?
I’m big into gardening, and I like woodworking. I also really enjoy fixing and refurbishing things. I take a lot of pride in fixing and restoring something much more than disposing of it and buying something new. I really like the TV show American Restorations. That represents my dream job/career. I like making things, tinkering and I’ve always been kind of crafty. I also really enjoy pheasant hunting. I have two Springer Spaniels (Levi and Reuben) that I hunt with, and I really, really enjoy that.