History of the Scholarship Society

History of the Civil Engineering Scholarship Society

Historically, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEEn) at Brigham Young University (BYU) has not had very much by way of discretionary scholarship monies. When S. Olani Durrant became Department Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the Fall of 1992, these funds amounted to only a few thousand dollars — largely the result of unsolicited donations by friends and department graduates.

Shortly after Dr. Durrant becoming chair, Mel Nichols (‘72), one of the most consistent donors, visited the department and encouraged them to do more to attract external scholarship funds. Dr. Durrant pointed out to Mel that they also had letters from King Husein (‘71) which had accompanied his unsolicited donations. King had also asked if there was anything further he could do for the department. Fortunately, Dr. Durrant had just completed ten years as Associate Dean in the college office where one of his assignments was college development. Through this experience, he was aware of a window of opportunity, since closed by the university, that a department could organize its own development program.

As Mel and Dr. Durrant talked, they outlined the basic format for a department scholarship society and identified others who might be willing to participate. After getting university approval, Jay Terry, a university development officer, and Dr. Durrant traveled to Fresno, California to meet with King who enthusiastically agreed to become a board member. They also met with Jim Easton (‘62) in Sacramento who committed to participate as well. Follow-on conversations with Lee Wimmer (‘68) in American Fork, Doug Ferrell (‘78) in Los Angeles, Scott Larson (‘73) in Phoenix, and Jim Wilde (‘72) in Las Vegas brought additional support and a willingness to serve. These seven alumni became the first Board of Directors with Mel as Chair of the Scholarship Society.

Shortly thereafter, they met at BYU to outline the organization, goals, and operational procedures for the Scholarship Society. A goal to raise $1,000,000 of endowed funding within ten years was chosen as their central effort along with the fostering of annual giving to support directly funded scholarships. They also outlined donation guidelines for the establishment of named scholarships wherein donors who were able to make significant contributions could be recognized both by the university and our scholarship recipients. (100% of the) Interest accrued from these donations fund scholarships which carry the names of the donors.

The scholarship program was announced to the alumni and friends early in 1993 and support began to build. Many thought the goal of $1,000,000 was a bit lofty but the board was confident that it was reachable. In 2004 the goal was met and in Spring 2007 a new goal of $5,000,000 was set. Over the years, many others have served on the board and through their diligence and determination our endowed fund continues to grow at amazing rates. This has been a monumental effort and all present and past board members, together with many generous donors, many of you included, are greatly appreciated.

It has been gratifying to see thousands of students who have been financially assisted through this effort. As student needs continue to expand beyond available scholarship funds, the Board is determined to continue seeking donations to the endowed fund as well as for direct scholarship support. The department hopes that each alumni will support this effort to whatever level possible. It is a wonderfully worthwhile cause to help young people reach their goal of entering our beloved profession.