Innovation, collaboration and legacy inspires dedication to the ELB

June 17, 2019

Donors to the new Engineering Lab Building envision a space that transforms students' learning experience

Celebrating Donors 2019
Celebrating Donors 2019
Dennis Kirchoff ('79 B.S.E.) (right) and his wife, Susan Bennett, at Celebrating Donors.

By Mohamad Jaafar, Summer D-SIP Intern

Dennis Kirchoff (’79 B.S.E.) and his wife, Susan Bennett, are astonished at the features of their brand-new tablet. They say the global interconnectivity offered by their new device is so much different from the technology they grew up with. It's the type of innovation they hope to see in the new Engineering Lab Building, a project they've generously supported.

Kirchoff and Bennett joined over 160 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and donors at the annual Celebrating Donors event at Lovett Hall on June 6, 2019. Many of the attendees have supported the new Engineering Lab Building on campus, which will be opening its doors in the fall of 2020.

When Kirchoff decided to enroll as an engineering student at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, he was 27 years old. Although he was a non-traditional student, Kirchoff says he felt very welcomed and was excited to be a "bigger frog in a smaller pond" at the university. UM-Dearborn's open arms to students of all different backgrounds is what inspired Lee Gorman and her husband, alumnus Mark Ritz (’75 M.S.E.), to give to the ELB. Gorman says she appreciates that the university caters to students of different ages, socioeconomic statuses, and cultures. She feels that her contribution prepares students for industry.

"Students aren't here just to become engineers. That's too narrow of a scope... they're here to be educated," Ritz said when discussing the trajectory of the engineering discipline. He's especially excited about the cross-disciplinary collaboration that will be fostered by new workspaces in the ELB.

Eric Nemeth (’85 B.A.), another ELB donor and UM-Dearborn alumnus, says that "people in narrow niches is a bygone era." Engineering and technology are playing a fundamental role in a variety of industries. His wife, Paula Nemeth (’85 B.A.), attests to the growing role of technology in her field of education. The Engineering Lab Building will provide learning spaces, labs, and flexible classrooms for engineering students to exchange ideas with non-engineering students and be innovative in their approach to addressing problems.

Providing an enriching education for students wasn't the only factor that inspired the Nemeth's generosity, but also past leadership at the University. Former Chancellor Daniel Little's approach to "putting the students first" and multi-disciplinary learning motivated them, and a number of other donors, to support the ELB in his honor.

The ELB donors at the event agreed that investing in higher education is their opportunity to give back with a long-lasting impact. This project ensures that UM-Dearborn graduates are innovative learners with contemporary skill sets. Bennett stresses how important it is for UM-Dearborn to be ready for the direction the world is going. She’s excited to use her new tablet, which is a testament to how far human innovation has come. With the proper space and resources, the possibilities are endless.

For more information on supporting the ELB, contact Kelly Cronin, CECS Director of Development, or 313-593-3500. To give online, click here.

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