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With a Little Help from His Friends Anderson was Committed to Family, College and Community Alumni Association College Board Disbands
Golf Scramble 2003 Class Notes Upcoming College Events

With a Little Help from His Friends

Being an electrical engineering student back in the thirties wasn’t easy. Just ask Tom Anderson. In addition to taking tough classes, Anderson had to work, spend time with friends and pass Oskar Edison’s courses.

“His courses were tough,” Anderson said. “But he was a very helpful guy. I am not sure I earned all the help I got.”

Thomas J. Anderson
Anderson was raised on a farm near Bellwood, Neb., and was only the second person in his family to attend college. Initially, he didn’t see a way to go to school. But help came from many sources: A high school principle who helped him apply for scholarships (he chose engineering because there was no foreign language in the exam); a one-year Regents’ Scholarship; several college professors, including Edison; his father, who a got him a job with Iowa/Nebraska Light and Power; and Ray Schacht, chief engineer at that plant, and his assistant Bert Ellsworth. “It was a great opportunity. I learned a lot,” Anderson said, then added, “I don’t know how I got so lucky.”

After Anderson’s second year of college, he met Evelyn Fern Park, who later became his wife. His grades went down hill after that. “Well,” he said, “I still had to drink beer with my buddies. But, I also had to graduate.” Anderson went to Edison for help in getting back on track. “He was a very good counselor. I didn’t think I could handle 12 credits hours and he suggested I take a swimming course, which made the workload easier,” Anderson said. “That also allowed me to be eligible to be an officer in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and somehow I was elected local president.”

After graduating in 1939, he again went to work for Iowa/Nebraska Power, then for Armco Steel. In 1943 he joined the Army to become a radar officer. “One day I was a civilian, the next day I was a 2nd Lt. in Signal Corp.” After teaching at MIT radar school his duties took him to Los Alamos where he worked on fusing equipment that would set off the bomb at the right altitude and flew in B-29s to prepare test bombs, without explosives, for dropping. As he was preparing to go overseas, the first atom bomb was dropped in Japan and he was later in the group that started up Sandia Base in Albuquerque, the new bomb assembly site.

After completing his service in the Army, Anderson went to work for Glenn L. Martin Company, where he worked on missile projects and eventually managed instrumentation design and development. After nine years, he moved to California to work for Lockheed where he stayed for 27 years, working in California and New Jersey. There, he was, among other things, a project engineer on a supersonic ramjet target drone, program manager for missile projects, director of spacecraft engineering, and general manager of the Lockheed Electronics Company military systems division.

“I was lucky,” Anderson said. “I was sort of on the fringe of things, I got in late on radar, the bomb projects and spacecraft engineering, but somehow I happened to be in the right place where I seemed to be needed.”

And he wasn’t afraid to try new things. While in college, he and a friend worked on two projects for Engineers’ Week: The first year a lie-detecting device, the next year a high voltage transformer. “The lie detector test didn’t detect any lies, but people enjoyed trying it,” he said, laughing. The transformer, on the other hand, put on quite a show for people watching the displays. “It put out about 100,000 volts of electricity and the sparks walked up a ‘Jacob’s Ladder.’ When they reached the top, they waved out in a rather spectacular manner with a discharge over a foot long.” An alternative display using the transformer used a pinwheel on each electrode when they turned on the high voltage, the electrical discharge made the pinwheels spin and throw off huge sparks.

This tinkering spirit stayed with Anderson throughout his life. Shortly after graduating, Anderson began repairing and building radios and test equipment—as a hobby—which gave him “a leg up over many other students” while in electronics training in an army pre-radar course. And when he first learned about microprocessors in 1976, he built his own midget computer from a microprocessor and learned some assembly language. He became intrigued and began writing programs, including a program for income tax preparation, which showed him the potential computers could have for engineers in the work place. “The information processing center at Lockheed was really opposed to incorporating personal computers in the workplace,” he said. “And the silly thing was, engineers were doing everything in longhand and it took so much time.” Anderson used his own project fixed assets to buy 20 PCs, then scrounged three or four smart terminals that could be programmed to do PC work. The engineers were delighted. He then began giving seminars throughout the company about PC usage.

Anderson retired from Lockheed in 1983, but hasn’t slowed down. He’s been “a maverick” in politics in Los Altos, Calif., maintains a couple of Web sites for local groups and now travels, especially since his wife’s death in February. The two were very close, he said, and were rarely apart. “Since Evelyn’s death, it’s the longest we’ve been apart. We had 63 years together. It’s nice that the memories are so great.”

It’s been many years since Anderson was a struggling student in a big-city university, but he’s never forgotten his farm roots. Because of a bout with ovarian cancer, Evelyn was unable to have children, but the two wanted to help kids. So in 1999, he and Evelyn established the Thomas J. and Evelyn P. Anderson Student Support Fund. They also has made provisions through their estate plans to provide additional support to benefit the people and programs in the College of Engineering & Technology.

“When I look back, I recall all the help I received,” he said. “We thought it was a good idea to help others who were in need. That’s what helped get me started.”

Constance Walter

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Anderson was Committed to Family, College and Community

Whether overseeing the finances at Metra, finessing a corporate contribution for United Way or finagling the best price on a rusty oil can at a flea market, Lowell Anderson was hard to turn down.

“Lowell’s voice was very deep, and when he talked, we called it ‘the voice of God,’” said Jim Roos, a longtime friend who worked with Anderson as a United Way Board Member. “He had a wonderful, charming way about him. He believed in the Christian concept of helping people.”

Rob Nickolaus presents Lowell Anderson with the College of Engineering & Technology 2000 Distinguished Service Award
Anderson (CIVE ’46), 78, a worldwide director of transportation at Amoco Chemical Corp. until his retirement in 1988, died Sept. 6, of bone marrow cancer in his Palos Park Ill., home.

The son of a farmer, Anderson dreamed of a more prosperous life and pursued an engineering degree at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He remained passionate about his alma mater, donating generously and recruiting alumni to follow his philanthropic lead. He and his wife, Betty, created a special fund for a professor stipend, scholarships and student activities in the College.

Anderson also was passionate about helping his community. He was one of the original members for Metra, a commuter rail service in Chicago, serving as the treasurer for 18 years. After his retirement, he served for six years as a “loaned executive” to the United Way representing Amoco. He also served on boards for the Palos Park association, the Boy Scouts, his church, United Way and the Northeast Planning Commission. In 2000, he received the Engineering Alumni Board’s Distinguished Service Award.

That same year Anderson was interviewed for the Contacts magazine and was asked why he was so involved in volunteer activities. He responded with a quote by John Templeton: “What we do for ourselves, dies with us. What we do for others, lives forever.”

Tracy Dell’Angela
Chicago Tribune

—Constance Walter
contributed to this article


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A Friend We Will Miss

Ralph Charles Ahlquist (MechE ’49) died Aug. 23, in Bellevue, Neb. Ahlquist worked for Union Pacific Railroad from 1936-80 as a mechanical engineer. After retiring, he volunteered at the Durham Western Heritage Museum in Omaha, where he helped reconstruct an old street-car and refinished desks for the old-time schoolhouse. In April 2000, he was recognized by the College for more than 50 years of support.

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Alumni Association College Board Disbands

With the most recent round of budget cuts to the University, the Alumni Association felt it was best to disband the individual college boards it had supported. Leadership was forced to make this decision to preserve the overall integrity of the organization; the current members of the College of Engineering & Technology Board fully support this decision. This has created a new opportunity to support the college. With the support of the AA, Dean David Allen and others, the existing CET Board members have disbanded and chartered a new organization to help the College meet its ever-present needs: Friends of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Engineering & Technology (FUN-CET).

The mission of FUN-CET:
1. To encourage activities that help recognize the importance of engineering and technology professions and to recognize persons and organizations doing meritorious service in their professions.
2. To promote and support the mission and program of UNL’s CET.
3. To encourage the establishment of scholarship, loan funds and fellowships for CET students.

We will continue to provide the same services, potentially increasing our ability to support the College. This would not be limited to those who were members of the Alumni Association. Anyone who has an interest in the success of the College can be involved. Some major efforts in which we will actively support the College staff and students are:

  • Develop a list of volunteers who can support and enhance the quality of the College.
  • Encourage middle and high school students at recruitment activities.
  • Promoting extra-curricular activities, E-Week, senior send off, awards ceremonies, etc.
  • Help College officials develop long-lasting ties to promising donors and major contributors.
  • Organize reunions and activities that combine athletic events with academic presentations and student recruitment.
  • Provide continuous group updates and articles in the Engineering @ Nebraska magazine.
  • Continue to hold an annual golf tournament to raise funds for the organization and its scholarship funds.

With our future volunteer membership to include more than just alums—students, parents, recruiters, business people, employers, teachers and others—we look forward to the many things we can accomplish. We are excited about the opportunities to work with the Dean, faculty, staff and students in the College and will continue to support its commitment to success and growth.

Gretchen Livingston, P.E.
FUN-CET Trustee

Golf Scramble 2003

Lining up a putt
The Eighth Annual College of Engineering & Technology golf tournament was held Oct. 6 at Firethorn golf course in Lincoln. The day was perfect for golf and comraderie.Seventeen teams made up of professionals, faculty and students played and raised nearly $800 for the scholarship fund. Corporate sponsors were: HWS Consulting Group, Kirkham, Michael & Associates, Isco, Inc., General Dynamics, HDR Engineering, E&A Consulting Group, and Hughes Brothers, Inc. It is the generous contributions of our corporate sponsors that allow the Friends of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, College of Engineering & Technology to support student activities and recruitment throught the year.

The winning team was sponsored by ISCO, Inc. Team members were Bill Foster and Fred Nabity, ISCO, Inc., Dennis Schulte, Professor of biological systems engineering, and Jason Byler, graduate student. Special thanks to Gary Westergren for setting up the scramble with Firethorn.

Excellence Awards

The College of Engineering & Technology congratulates the following companies for receiving American Council of Engineering Companies Engineering Excellence Awards. For details, please go to the ACEC web site: www.acecnebraska.org.

Grand Award Alvine and Associates Inc. for the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection and life support designs of the Desert Dome facility at Henry Doorly Zoo.

Honor Award Leo A. Daly for the design of the 40-story First National Tower; Olsson Associates (3) for restoration of wetlands and creation of a Lincoln Wetland Bank, its design of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system that integrates water and wastewater systems in South Sioux City and for its quick and effective response to leak in South Sioux City force main; HDR for replacement of 10th Street Viaduct in Omaha; Kirkham Michael Consulting Engineers for innovative upgrade to Papillion water treatment plant.

Honorable Mention HWS Consulting Group Inc. for its design of the first modern arterial roundabout in Lincoln; Lamp, Rynearson & Associates Inc. (2) for its upgrade of runway 14L/32R at Eppley Airfield in Omaha and for the design and construction of a residential lake development project in Douglas County; JEO Consulting Group Inc. for its design of a wastewater facility in Wisner, Neb.; Olsson Associates (2) for its design and construction management of a five-lane roadway in Grand Island, Neb., and for the conversion of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific railroad bridge as part of a trail between Lincoln and Omaha; Kirkham Michael Consulting Engineers for the design of a 10.2 mile expressway that begins in Waterloo, Neb.

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Class Notes

  • John G. Bjork, CIVE ’63, retired from the city of Spokane, Wash., in 2000. He was appointed to the Seattle Systems Operation Board last year.
  • James L. (Jim) Hanna, BSEE ’70, retired in October 2002 after 32 years with Nebraska Public Power District. He and a partner purchased the Tran-Tec Corporation, a manufacturer of high quality, custom designed semiconductor coolers, heat sinks, and other fabricated aluminum products. The company is located in Columbus, Neb.
  • Kevin Conway, IMSE ’85, was promoted to vice president, health information with the Nebraska Hospital Association, where he has been since 2000.
  • James Vigesaa, CM ’88, started Bleeker & Vigesaa, LLC, a general contracting company, in Brighton, Colo. The company focuses on commercial projects in the Denver Metro and Northeast Colorado area. “The Construction Management program prepared me exceptionally well … from the start of my career where technical knowledge was key to success, to starting my own company where the business classes in accounting, finance, and management were essential,” Vigesaa said. “The most important class I took in the program was Speech Communication because the number one thing about business is people skills and communication.” You can reach Vigesaa at james@bleekervigesaa.com.

Upcoming College Events

Feb. 12 The Big Spring Career Fair, City Campus Union
Feb. 23-27 Omaha E-Week; A variety of activities throughout the week for prospective students
Mar. 2 Discover Engineering: An opportunity for students in grades 5-8 to explore engineering
Mar/April Early Awareness Program; Middle school youth learn about careers in IT and Engineering
April 22 Downtown Lincoln Technology Fair
April 23 E-Week Open House
April 24 Alumni & Friends Recognition Dinner