Home | Archive | Subscribe

This Issue's Connections:

A Reasonably Successful Man Package Perfect Class Notes
Upcoming Events

A Reasonably Successful Man

Marshall Borchert always wanted to be an engineer—even retirement hasn’t stopped his inquisitive nature.

Marshall Borchert has known that he wanted to be an engineer since he was 3 years old. “I’ve always had an innate desire to design and electronics were the way to do that,” Borchert said. He came to the university in 1962, majoring in electrical engineering. When he graduated, Borchert knew he was ready to embark upon his future. “There was one professor in particular, Henry Ablin, who sparked the inquisitive process in me,” Borchert said. Upon graduation, he went to work for Tektronix, a company specializing in test equipment, as an electronic design engineer. “I received a good education, but in the workplace, it was the creativeness of the engineering that mattered most.”

Nine years later, Borchert returned to Nebraska and partnered with an old college friend whose family owned and operated Hamilton Telephone and Midstate Cable Television, to build and operate several rural cable television systems. It was within a few months that Borchert began developing the idea for a time domain reflectometer, a testing device that can locate cabling problems. “A reflectometer is like a closed circuit radar system. It sends out a burst of energy and when it sees some sort of discontinuity, energy will be reflected back to the device,” Borchert said. The reflectometer then converts time into distance to locate the source of the problem, and has proven especially useful with buried cable where it is difficult to determine the location of a cabling problem. After two years of building and testing a prototype, Borchert started his own company, Avtek, which incorporated in 1982 and changed its name to Riser-Bond Instruments in 1985.

Borchert immediately began marketing his reflectometer to cable companies, but ran into an ironic dilemma. “Our biggest problem was that the device was too easy to operate, in that it was portable and no data interpretation was required. Our customers were used to costly, complicated devices where ours was low-cost, accurate and reliable,” Borchert said. With perseverance, Borchert and his staff developed personal relationships with their customers and sought to provide excellent customer service. “Success really boils down to customer service,” Borchert said. “We had that. Every morning I get up, I can hardly wait to get to work”

The company began turning a profit early and in 1989 Borchert realized he needed to expand both his product and employee bases. “We were based in Aurora, Neb., but it was difficult to get engineers to transfer to a small town. We needed to be closer to the university,” Borchert said. So, he moved to Lincoln and over the next ten years, Riser-Bond continued to expand, creating a wider product line and hiring more than 55 employees. In 1999, however, Borchert received an offer he couldn’t refuse from United Dominion Industries. “Anything I’ve got is for sale. Some days the price is high, some days the price is low,” Borchert said. “It was harder to sell than I thought, but at the same time, I was ready to do something different.” After the sale, Riser-Bond eventually moved out of Lincoln and the staff was downsized. “They forgot to take care of our customers,” Borchert said. His zeal for entrepreneurship and invention has not diminished. After the sale of the company, he retired, but in 2004, he came up with an idea for a device to test low voltage power in Europe. He will start field tests within the next few months and go into production if the results prove successful.

Marshall Borchert has had one constant in his life—the desire to be an engineer, and that desire has taken him to many different places. “I’ve never wanted to be anything but an engineer and a reasonably successful husband and father,” Borchert said. As he looks to the future, Borchert hopes that more young men and women follow the career path he chose. “You seldom hear kids say that they’ve always wanted to be an engineer,” Borchert said. “High schools should do a better job of educating kids about the daily tasks and intellectual rewards of various jobs and steering kids toward the various professions. I’m lucky because I’ve always known what I wanted to do. Young people need to figure out what they want to be in life then make that their focus and goal.”

—Roxane Gay

Package Perfect

Lowell Whitney would like to share information about the defense-related project he’s working on, but if he did, there might be consequences. Whitney graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1969. Today, he is the president and co-founder of Quoin Industrial Inc., a firm that specializes in the development and commercialization of proprietary packaging technologies. Whitney, who has always considered himself a “hands-on” type of person, worked for Adolph Coors for nearly 20 years. There, he did everything from working as a facilities engineer to coordinating patents and licenses.

Lowell Whitney applies his mechanical engineering skills toward developing proprietary packaging technologies.

After acquiring two technologies from Coors, Whitney and two associates founded Quoin and began manufacturing special flame resistant caps for high proof Bacardi rum bottles. They also continued developing the Party Pig. “The Party Pig is a self-pressurizing technology based on combining precise doses of sodium bicarbonate and citric acid inside a plastic pouch in a sequential manner to produce CO2 gas. This process inflates the pouch and thereby pressurizes the container the pouch is placed in,” Whitney said. “To produce this packaging, we had to develop a patented plastic pouch to hold and dose the chemicals properly.”

Whitney and his team also developed a plastic bottle capable of holding 8.5 liters of beer and a low-cost and reliable dispensing tap. While sales to microbrewers have been the most significant source of revenue for the Party Pig, Quoin developed a somewhat modified version for home brewers and has worked with Whitbread Beer Co., now Interbrew UK, in England, to design a version for large volume distribution.

“Whitbread challenged us to develop a version of our package which combined our self-pressurizing pouch, dispensing tap and a five liter steel can. Once we achieved this, Interbrew UK launched the Draught Barrel with their flagship continental lager, Stella Artois in January 2003,” Whitney said. Since then, the design has won a number of prestigious packaging awards including Design Innovation of the Year and People’s Choice. The future holds many possibilities for Whitney and Quoin Industrial. “The self-pressurizing technology can be applied to the dispensing of any flowable product. It’s a matter of fine tuning the package for a particular application and the package economics,” Whitney said.

—Roxane Gay

Class Notes

  • “Packy” Bernard Edward McFarland, ’36, writes that he is doing well in Boca Raton, Fla. He was married to Hilda Miller for nearly 60 years until her death in 1996, then married Virginia Kirschner in 1997; she died five and half years later. The grandfather of five and great-grandfather of six, has two daughters, Judith and Susan, and a step-daughter, Carol. Throughout his life he has traveled the world several times. Born in 1911, “Packy” believes he may be the oldest living alumnus.
  • Daniel (Dan) E. Crawford, BSEE ’67, was named Chairman of the Board for Embratel Participacoes S.A. (EMT), a Brazilian telephone company, and a member of the board of Directors for Avantel S.A., a Mexican telephone company. He has been the senior vice president of MCI since 1982.
  • Ronald E. Zitterkopf, BS ’69, MS ’70, CIVE, was elected vice president of the Missouri Society of Professional Engineers. He is vice president of Black & Veatch, and executive vice president of Black & Veatch International, both headquartered in Kansas City.
  • William Wong, ChemE ’73, works for ExxonMobil in Beaumont, Texas. He and his wife Jane live in Kingwood, Texas.
  • Norman Kwan, EE ’74, retired from Texas Instruments and Compaq Computers (now HP) after 20 years to become an independent investor of stocks and a tax preparer at H&R Block. Norman and wife Mimi, UNL ‘77, recently moved to Missouri City, Texas, where they visit and play mahjong with old friends Daniel Woo, EE ’73, and his wife Corinna, also a UNL graduate.
  • Greg Koll, ME ’92, recently began working with Engineering Technologies Inc. in Omaha. He will be assisting with the company’s mechanical design team.
  • Kevin Kruse, CIVE ’00, was appointed an associate of JEO Consulting Group Inc.’s Wahoo office. His expertise is in transportation and drainage.
  • Justin Stine, CIVE ’01, was appointed an associate of JEO Consulting Group Inc. in Lincoln. As an engineer-in-training, he will work with water, sewer and drainage systems.
  • Joe Zadina, CIVE ’04, became project engineer with Lamp Rynearson and Associates after working as an intern while enrolled on the Omaha Campus.

Upcoming College Events

Oct. 6 Career Fair
Oct. 6 PKI Diversity in IT and Engineering Day, 8 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Oct. 9 UNO Homecoming Open House
Oct. 11 Women Interested in Engineering Day
Oct. 27 Lincoln Information Night
Oct. 31 PKI Fall Open House, 1 - 4 p.m.
Nov. 3 Omaha Information Night
Nov. 8 UNO Open House
Nov. 15 PKI Women in IT and Engineering Day, 8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Dec. 13 UNO Open House
Feb. 21 UNO Open House
Feb. 21-25 PKI IST&E Week (In honor of National Engineers Week)
Feb. 26 PKI Spring Open House
April 4 UNO Open House