CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Oct. 15, 2009 – To honor the legacy of former NASCAR racing champion Alan Kulwicki, his family is making a gift commitment of nearly $1.9 million to support engineering education at UNC Charlotte.
A trust fund created by the late driver’s mother since the age of 14, Thelma H. Kulwicki, will benefit the Motorsports Engineering Program in the William States Lee College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Sciences.
Considered the largest individual gift ever received by the engineering school, the funds will be used for student scholarships and to construct a new motorsports engineering facility on the UNC Charlotte campus.
The Kulwicki family also is contributing nearly $630,000 to his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The gift also will be used for scholarships and to create the Alan Kulwicki Memorial Student Center in the university’s engineering building.
In recognition of the Kulwicki family’s generosity, the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees has approved naming the university’s existing motorsports research laboratory in honor of Kulwicki, who died in a plane crash several months after he won the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup championship.
The facility will be called the Alan D. Kulwicki Motorsports Laboratory.
“Naming this building in memory of Alan is an appropriate honor to his commitment to academic distinction and his achievements on the race track,” said Chancellor Philip L. Dubois. “Not only was he a champion driver, he also was a winner in the classroom.”
The gift also will elevate the status of the university’s motorsports engineering program, said Dubois, who said the school produces some of the most qualified applicants in motorsports. Roughly 10 percent of all NASCAR engineers are UNC Charlotte graduates.
Michael Lovell, dean of UWM’s College of Engineering & Applied Science, said Kulwicki was an excellent role model for students at both universities.
“He succeeded through his entrepreneurial, technical and leadership skills,” he said. “At UWM, we strive to impart those same qualities in our students today. Alan’s legacy and his connection to UWM still resonates deeply with our students.”
Dubois credited Lee College of Engineering Dean Bob Johnson for starting UNC Charlotte’s motorsports engineering program in 1998, with the formation of a concentration in motorsports within the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Science.
“Currently we have nearly 100 students enrolled in the program,” said Johnson. “Besides rigorous classroom work, these students get a lot of hands-on experience in various levels of racing, from drag racing to design-and-build teams such as Formula SAE and Mini Baja. Along the way, they gain additional valuable experience in such areas as management, scheduling, fabrication and teamwork skills.”
For her part, Thelma Kulwicki said she was struck by how much the students in the motorsports engineering program have in common with her son, who earned a mechanical engineering degree from UWM in 1977.
Alan Kulwicki was the first college graduate to win stock car racing’s premier title, the Winston Cup Series championship. It is now called the Sprint Cup Series.
“This was something Alan was very proud of and for him it ranked right up there with all his victories,” Thelma Kulwicki said. “Alan was a firm believer in the inherent value of education, and his academic experiences helped him to overcome some big odds and achieve great things.”
About the Lee College of Engineering
For more than 45 years, The William States Lee College of Engineering has been educating leading engineering professionals in the disciplines of civil and environmental engineering, electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering, systems engineering, engineering technology, and construction management. The college offers six bachelor’s, five master’s and three Ph.D. programs.
About UNC Charlotte
UNC Charlotte is North Carolina’s urban research institution. With an enrollment ranking it fourth among the 17 schools in the UNC system, it is the largest public university in the greater Charlotte metropolitan region. A doctoral institution, UNC Charlotte serves the region through applied research, knowledge transfer and engaged community service. For fall 2009, approximately 24,700 students, including 5,300 graduate students, were enrolled in one of the University’s comprehensive doctoral, master’s or bachelor’s programs. Follow us on the Web at www.uncc.edu, through Facebook at www.facebook.com/UNCCharlotte, Twitter at UNCCLT_News and our blog at http://unccltnews.blogspot.com/.
About University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Engineering & Applied Science:
The College of Engineering & Applied Science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee provides undergraduate and graduate degrees in six areas of specialization: civil engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, industrial and manufacturing engineering, materials and mechanical engineering. Annually CEAS serves approximately 1,900 students. CEAS is a leading provider of engineering graduates to local industry.
About University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
UWM is part of the University of Wisconsin system and is one of only two public doctoral research universities in the state of Wisconsin. UWM serves more than 29,000 students by providing a comprehensive liberal arts and professional education through 159 degree programs and 13 schools and colleges.
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