Bob Brightfelt, Group President (retired), Dade Behring; Business Director (retired),
E I Du Pont; BS & MS Mechanical Engineering, UNL; MBA, University of Georgia
For the first 25 years after college, my wife and I were building a career, focusing on family, making new friends and exploring the world. Then Jim Hendrix, a UNL fraternity brother who was serving as dean of the College of Engineering, honored us for 25 consecutive years of giving and asked us to get more involved with the college. I was ready!
I immediately became an active member of the dean’s External Advisory Board and for the past 20 years I’ve worked with talented, successful and extremely dedicated Nebraska Engineering alumni making a positive difference in the success of current and future engineering students, faculty and staff at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
"I am a big believer that students need to be exposed to as many engineering, business and life experiences as possible—the earlier in their academic career, the better."
- Bob Brightfelt
Of 19 current Advisory Board members, I am the only one who is not a native Nebraskan (I grew up in northwest Pennsylvania). I was at the university for six years, through two degrees, and only went back home for Christmas and summer vacation. Every year during breaks, a student and his or her parents would invite me to their homes. I learned about farming, ranching, hunting, small town life, and activities in the big city. Because this hospitality had a very positive impact on us, we made a major commitment of time and financial resources to the university and the people of Nebraska. We’ve found they really deserve and appreciate our help.
I am a big believer that students need to be exposed to as many engineering, business and life experiences as possible, and the earlier in their academic careers, the better. A life-changing experience happened in high school when I visited key industries in my home town. My name was drawn from 365 students and I saw, close up, an operating steel blast furnace, paper mill, and train locomotive assembly and test facility—then I had to report on the experience to my sophomore classmates. After college and four years in the Air Force, I volunteered with Junior Achievement to help expose students to business and industry. More recently, I’ve helped create an annual travel experience for Nebraska Engineering students to connect with our alumni for opportunities in cities including Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix, Raleigh-Durham. A trip to Houston is planned for Spring Break 2012. I also support students’ participation in the JA Titan Business Competition.
Meanwhile, I’m engaged with the college's efforts to benchmark the Top 40 engineering colleges in the United States and determine what actions are needed for Nebraska to reach the Top 40 list. A plan is taking shape for “Engineering a New Nebraska”: leveraging university, industry and state government to grow the state economy with opportunities for our graduates to thrive in technical leadership jobs here.
I try to pursue activities that are important to the college’s growth and success, but are difficult for the college to accomplish from resources within the operation. Our alumni have a lot of skills in leadership, management, strategic planning, teamwork, portfolio management, rapid product development, lean manufacturing, effective communication, etc. We have definitely developed a healthy “Bias for Action,” and understand the concept of “What Have You Done for Me Lately?” Some of us have accumulated enough wealth to make a difference in a big way. Others can easily energize large affinity groups that can do the same. Let’s get the word out about where the college is going and the need for help and financial support to get there.
With a new dean at the helm and new Big Ten peers, it is a great time for you to get back in touch with your college. We need your help!