Generosity reaps many benefits

by | Apr 9, 2020 | Alumni Network, Spring 2020 | 0 comments

Bill Zisch ’79 came to Mines on an athletic scholarship in 1975, joining the Orediggers on the football and baseball fields for the four years of his undergraduate education. That initial support not only allowed him to succeed academically but also set him up for a successful career as a mining engineer.

Zisch is the former COO of Argonaut Gold Ltd. and CEO of Midway Gold, both companies engaged in exploration, mine development and production activities, and he’s honoring his time at Mines by paying it forward.

In addition to serving as president of the Mines alumni board, Zisch also finds ways to pay tribute to his roots in Mines Athletics. “I attend games and matches throughout the year and contribute to the athletics department financially. I also take part in discussions related to meeting the needs of current student athletes and increasing the engagement of student-athlete alums.”

“My participation in Mines’ sports teams played a big role in my education, so it’s enjoyable to continue my involvement with athletics at the university,” Zisch continued. “Sports give you a chance to learn teamwork, set objectives, get a plan and then execute, all skills that transfer
into industry.”

This spirit of giving back is what helps universities thrive, and it’s the personal touch that makes it truly meaningful.

“It’s important for alums to understand that their contributions are appreciated, whatever form they take,” Zisch explained. “Our alums are welcome on campus anytime, to give lectures, sit on panels, judge competitions, meet with students—in short, to engage in whatever activities speak to them.”

Of course, it’s not just the personal interactions that are important to a university—private support is essential to ensuring the best opportunities are available for current students.

State funding provides a portion of the university’s budget, but at less than 10 percent of the total operations, schools can’t count on it for the future. And the answer isn’t in raising tuition fees, as Mines is sensitive to the growing financial burden that a college degree can represent to students and their families. To close the gap, the university must rely on private support. This lesser known, but equally important, funding source is key to ensuring Mines’ continued fiscal health and sterling reputation as a world-class educational institution.

“Many institutions have size on their side and can address budgetary issues by just adding more students,” said Brian Winkelbauer, president and CEO of the Mines Foundation. “We’re a lean institution—we don’t have a lot of fluff that we can cut, and we can’t continue to fund things that students want and need on the backs of tuition. So, if we want to continue to deliver the unprecedented educational experience for which we’re known, we simply must garner additional private support.”

But public institutions operate on a very different business model from private institutions, Winkelbauer continued, and although many don’t realize it, Mines is a public university. “Mines looks a lot like a private institution—for example, we maintain a smaller size that’s conducive to offering rigorous degree programs in a supportive environment, and we’re tightly focused on engineering and applied science.”

Mines’ small size is exactly what persuaded Aprill Nelson ’08 to earn her degree from the school. “I wanted to be a person and not a number,” she said. “I felt valued as a student, and I still feel that way as an alumna.”

But paying for her education wasn’t easy, and Nelson was inspired to provide better financial opportunities for future students. “I had to take out student loans to attend Mines, so I want to make it easier for someone else,” she said.

Now a reservoir engineer with the private equity team of Arcadius Capital Partners, Nelson created the Pillar Endowed Scholarship to support out-of-state petroleum engineering students through the McBride Honors Program. “I’m from Houston, so I know out-of-state tuition costs are higher, and I got a lot out of participating in the McBride program, so I’d like to afford other students that opportunity.”

Nelson is also a member of the Mines Alumni Board and feels strongly about the rewards to be gleaned from continued involvement with the university. “Through my work with the alumni board, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with both current Mines students and alumni—interactions that have helped me grow professionally and further develop my skills. When I go back to campus, I feel like I’m visiting family and friends, not just my university,” she said. “Everything I’ve given to Mines, I’ve received back and more.”

Meaningful contributions

Alumni leave their mark on Mines by volunteering, mentoring, hosting events in their local communities, donating to a program or department, engaging on social media and countless other ways. No matter what alumni are passionate about or where they are in their lives and careers, the way they choose to give back has a lasting effect on the Mines campus and community.

Here are a few ways alumni choose to support Mines:

Kurtis Griess ’08, MS ’10

Recruits bright STEM high school students for Mines

Brings students to Mines to experience the campus culture and learn more about college

Attends local M Club events in Albuquerque, N.M.

George Puls ’75

Leads M Club San Antonio to build support for local alumni and affinity for Mines

Financially supports the football program and scholarships

Kinzie Beavers ’10

Supports the Mines cheerleading program through her company’s matching gift program in honor of her fond memories on the squad

Attends M Club Denver events to connect with fellow Orediggers

Kathryn Morse Stricker ’95

Recruits Mines students for Texas Instruments at Career Day and throughout the year

Attends alumni events in Dallas to grow Mines pride

Olivia ’03, MS ’05 and Forest ’03, MS ’05 Bommarito

Created an endowed scholarship for students to provide them with the same financial opportunities they received as students