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Scholarship Reception 2016: Paying It Forward and Paying Tribute

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Scholarship Reception 2016: Paying It Forward and Paying Tribute

April 23, 2016
The College of Engineering celebrates students' achievements, donors' generosity and the legacies of those who inspired them at its annual scholarship reception.

Building bridges was a recurring theme at the University of Arizona College of Engineering’s scholarship reception on April 15, 2016.

“I’ve thought long and hard about my next dream, the next big goal to strive for -- and where I want my life to go after graduation,” student speaker Abigail Davidson, a civil engineering senior from Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, told nearly 200 donors, scholarship recipients and other guests at the Tucson Marriott University Park.

“Sure enough, this Jersey girl is going to work as a field engineer for Turner Construction Company in the Big Apple.”

Davidson, president of the UA chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, or ASCE, said participating in steel bridge competitions at the group’s regional conferences -- including the UA-hosted conference last year -- has been a highlight of her college experience.

“The challenges I faced working on the steel bridge year after year have taught me valuable life lessons,” said Davidson, who received a Harold Ashton Scholarship and Fred and Anastasia Glendening Scholarship. “Without my scholarships, I would have had to take a job that helped pay tuition, which would have taken away my freedom to seek out organizations like the ASCE, Engineering Ambassadors and Women in Engineering Programming Board.”

Scholarship Reception Slide Show

More than 350 undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Engineering received scholarships from private donors totaling nearly $1 million in the 2015-2016 academic year.

First-year student Kiana Arias of Douglas, Arizona, caught the engineering bug as a freshman in high school attending a science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, educational event on the UA campus.

“The college students were buildings models of bridges. I really loved how interactive and hands-on their projects were,” she said. Her senior year, she returned to campus for the Society of Women Engineers’ “Suite with SWE” overnight program to inspire young women to pursue an engineering degree.

“That sealed the deal in my decision to come to the UA,” said Arias, who received a Los Hermanos/Northrop Grumman Corporation Engineering Scholarship.

Several seniors had been offered jobs with top companies after graduation. Chemical engineering senior Juan Sandoval, who received a Conrad Fraps Scholarship, has had internships at Eli Lilly and Johnson and Johnson and will start working at Merck this summer.

Edward Mackay, a senior in engineering management, will work as a consultant field engineer for FM Global property insurers in Los Angeles. He received a da Vinci scholarship, Kim and Corinne Fox Endowed Scholarship and Aileen Primero Memorial Scholarship in 2015-2016. Primero was a UA senior in engineering management and was interning at TransCore in Las Vegas when she died in 2007 at age 22.

Mackay met her parents, Edwin and Lani Primero, and alumnus Mike Marum (B.S. civil engineering, 1976), who was Aileen’s supervisor at Transcore. He looked forward to attending the 8th annual Aileen Primero Memorial Basketball Tournament the following day -- one of many athletic events her Alpha Phi Gamma sorority established at the UA in her memory.

“Especially after meeting Aileen’s parents, receiving this scholarship really hit home, Mackay said. “Learning about her story, her unforgettable character and the countless people she touched has made me especially thankful and humbled to receive this scholarship.”

Two scholarship recipients, Warren Kadoya and Kechen Zhu, are pursuing master’s degrees in environmental engineering and conducting research in wastewater treatment, with help from George and Dixie Shirley Graduate Fellowships.

“Meeting George and Dixie at the scholarship reception was an inspiration,” Kadoya said. “They were so kind, and George invited Kechen and me to visit his former water and wastewater engineering firm.”

Great Expectations

Alumni speaker Ann Wilkey described being raised as the youngest of five children in Yuma, Arizona, by a single mother who was highly accomplished despite paralysis from polio and encouraged all of her children to attend the UA.

Wilkey received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in systems engineering in 1984 and 1986 and worked at Sandia National Laboratories and in the defense and semiconductor industries before joining the UA as a systems engineering researcher in 2011.

She has provided scholarships for several UA undergraduates and established the Mary Lou and Ann Wilkey Endowment Scholarship in 2010 to honor her late mother. She has also served on advisory boards for the College and department of systems and industrial engineering.

“When you look at the student sitting next to you, you are seeing your future,” Wilkey told fellow donors. “That person may come up with the next medical device that will save your life, or extend the life of your heart.”

To students, she said, “We are very hopeful that you can produce these great things. You are going to make our future better.”

Top photo: Freshman scholarship recipient Kiana Arias, center, met retired Northrop Grumman corporate lead executive Steve Pedigo, who serves on the College's Industry Partner Board, and his wife Sandy at the scholarship reception.