Fantastic Friends

Though they aren’t alumni, friends of Stevens play a pivotal role in the university’s success.

In the summer of ’67, the Beatles released their famous song about getting a little help from friends. Fifty years later, Stevens could croon about its own friends – individuals, corporations and foundations who, despite not being alumni, believe in the Stevens mission and feel a generous affection for Castle Point.

Friends support Stevens for many reasons. They might value engineering education, just like Andrew Carnegie a century ago, who was so impressed by Stevens graduates that he donated the Carnegie building on campus.

Or, they might give in honor of a colleague, like in 1929 when General Electric co-founder Samuel Insull acquired and gave to Stevens the historic books on Leonardo da Vinci his late friend John Lieb, Class of 1880, had collected.

Or, like Gloria Heath, they give because they remember what Stevens meant to a cherished relative, her brother Royal Heath ’43, who died young in an airplane crash.

In recent years especially, friends of Stevens have had a major and transformative impact. Start with scholarships. Through its matching gifts program, ExxonMobil, a prime employer of Stevens alumni for decades, contributes to several individual and class funds, plus the comprehensive Stevens Scholarship Fund.

Meanwhile, the Hearst Foundation gives annual scholarships through STEP, the Stevens Technical Enrichment Program for diverse students. Arthur Imperatore, who grew up in Depression-era Hudson County before launching the NY Waterway ferry, never went to college but still supports scholarships at his hometown school. Josh Weston, the retired chairman of ADP, whose friendship with Stevens dates to his friendship with the university’s fifth president, Ken Rogers, gave the gift that launched the Pinnacle Scholars Program.

“Any worthwhile institution ought to know where it wants to be in the future,” Weston said. “If you’ve got a plan, you ought to take it seriously and have programs in place to deliver. One piece of the overall plan is Pinnacle. It is particularly aimed at the most promising students, and I’m glad to help them.”

Friends are also supporting faculty and their research. The Branfman Family Foundation has given awards to Professor George McConnell for his potentially groundbreaking work using deep brain stimulation to mitigate Parkinson’s and other neurological and psychiatric disorders. Proctor & Gamble has given to the Highly Filled Materials Institute, where research impacts biomedicine, batteries, packaging and other industries. Wiley Publishing, PNC and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation are all supporters of CIESE, the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education, which introduces STEM concepts to children. Kay Ciganovic, the great-greatgranddaughter of the second Stevens president, Alexander Crombie Humphreys, has contributed to the endowed chair in her ancestor’s name.

Friends have also made campus a more vibrant place. The Stevens Venture Center started in downtown Hoboken with the support of local businessman Greg Dell’Aquila. On campus, the American Bureau of Shipping funded the impressive ABS Engineering Center, stocked with three naval and civil engineering labs, plus collaborative spaces for students and faculty.

“Over the years, ABS and Stevens have been aligned with a mutual purpose of fostering learning and advancing innovation for the next generation of leaders,” said ABS chairman Christopher Wiernicki. “The ABS Engineering Center provides an environment both for learning the various engineering disciplines and for looking ahead toward new technologies that could transform the marine industry.”

The annual, campus-wide Innovation Expo thrives with friendly support. Companies like General Dynamics are investing in challenging student senior design projects. Tom Scholl, a DC-area entrepreneur who knows President Farvardin from the latter’s days at the University of Maryland, has since become a Stevens trustee and supports the expo’s keynote lecture on entrepreneurship.

The Ansary family, a prominent family of lawyers, financiers, authors and philanthropists, endowed prize money to establish the Ansary Entrepreneurship Competition, where seniors pitch their design projects during the Innovation Expo to a panel of expert judges.

“The taking of an idea and commercializing it – it’s great to see a university embrace that,” said Jeff Ansary. “But oftentimes, universities don’t have enough funding to continually support students’ entrepreneurial efforts, so funding to ensure that these projects continue to thrive is important.”

Friends of Stevens are also giving more than gifts. Many serve on university boards like the President’s Leadership Council or the School of Business Board of Advisors, offering their experience, insight and industry connections to help Stevens make strategic decisions and introduce students and faculty to new opportunities. Indeed, just like that catchy song from the ’60s, Stevens is getting by – and going farther – with help from its many loyal and generous friends.