$100,000 gift from anonymous donor relieves student debt


When 10 engineering graduates received their diplomas in May 2013, they did so with significantly less of a financial burden on their shoulders. With an average student-loan debt totaling more than $23,000, the 10 deserving students from the College of Engineering at The University of Akron received an extraordinary gift from a donor wishing to "promote career success and inspire lifelong meaningful contributions from these emerging leaders.”

The $100,000 gift from an Akron-area couple was designed to recognize the efforts of dedicated students and encourage them to become leaders in their field. The donors also hope to inspire others who are looking for a way to direct their philanthropy to a meaningful and immediate need.

Faculty in the College of Engineering were notified of the opportunity to nominate students for a $10,000 Trajectory Award scholarship in late January 2013, when the donors decided on this unusual and generous “graduation gift” to be awarded before the end of the semester.

The nominated students then submitted essays and letters of recommendation from co-op sponsors and others, along with evidence of leadership, community involvement, and academic excellence.

Students applying for the award were told that the donors wanted to “reward promising engineering students who have been identified by faculty and/or staff as having great potential as they embark on their engineering careers.”

The faculty and chairs in the departments in the College of Engineering made the final selections, which represented all aspects of engineering (see list below).

Recipients react

“I can’t put into words how grateful I am to receive the Trajectory Award scholarship,” said Joshua Schnitzler, a chemical engineering major who has accepted a position with Dow Chemical. “The stress of loan debt that this takes off my shoulders is huge.”

“This award is one-of-a-kind and helped alleviate a huge burden,” said Daniel Darkow, biomedical engineering. “It is truly incredible.”

“Having this award is definitely helping me to get out of loan debt and focus more of my attention toward working to solve some of the world’s problems,” said Jason Ball, civil engineering.

“It’s providing me with so much more confidence in the future,” said Brianna Polen, biomedical engineering. “I hope someday to be able pay it forward and show somebody else the generosity.”

2013 Trajectory Award Scholarship Winners

Jason Ball, Civil Engineering
Stow, Ohio
Jason’s degree in civil engineering is his second degree earned at UA. He first earned a bachelor of arts in mass media communication in 2008. Just prior to earning the degree, however, Jason realized he wanted to do something more to make a difference, especially when he discovered that a lack of clean drinking water for children around the globe is a huge problem. This intensified his volunteer work. He has been to Haiti and Juarez, Mexico, among other places. He decided to pursue a civil engineering degree so that he can be a real difference-maker in this arena.

John Baluch, Electrical Engineering
Chardon, Ohio
John describes himself as a "machine of constant improvement" and readily describes the tremendous amount of personal growth he has had during his college days. He is the electronics leader and software designer for the award-winning Zips Racing - SAE Formula Team and also is involved with Toastmasters and IEEE. He is very grateful for the Trajectory Award and the impact it will have on him, personally and professionally.

Daniel Darkow, Biomedical Engineering
Green, Ohio
Dan has worked very hard during his time at UA to achieve academic excellence and has been on the Dean's List in both the Engineering and Honors colleges every semester. He is a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honors fraternity, and is an active volunteer with the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Dan plans to work on earning a master’s degree following graduation. He and his family are thankful for the Trajectory Award and the direct impact on reducing his student debt.

John Drsek, Civil Engineering
Aurora, Ohio
For much of his college career, John worked two jobs to pay for college -- and still managed to minor in mathematics and earn nearly a 3.8 GPA. He has been a member of the Concrete Canoe team since 2010 and for three years has been the captain of the Akron Blades, the table tennis team on campus. John will readily tell you that he gained great organizational and leadership qualities in that role. After graduation, John will work for ODOT.

Peter W. Fetzer, Mechanical Engineering
Seville, Ohio
Peter attributes much of his growth during his time at The University of Akron to the engineering co-op program, which helped him to grow in showing respect for the ideas of others and to work as a member of a team for a greater good. Beyond the classroom, he has been a leader of the SAE Baja team and designed the sequential four-speed synchromesh transmission that will be used by this year's competition car.

Nicholas Fragiskatos, Computer Engineering
Green, Ohio
Nick is a member of both the Engineering and Honors colleges and has been on the Dean's List every semester. He has worked very hard in his pursuit of academic excellence and plans to attend graduate school after graduation. Earning the Trajectory Award has reinforced his belief that if you work hard, great opportunities and outcomes will follow. He is most grateful for the reduced stress level afforded by this award and is thankful to be able to concentrate more on being a good student, engineer, and person.

Sarah McGowan, Mechanical Engineering
Garfield Heights, Ohio
In addition to Sarah’s academic achievement, she has excelled in her co-op assignments, which have contributed to her upcoming employment with Sikorsky in Connecticut, where she will design equipment for testing components of Sikorsky aircraft. She has been a devoted volunteer and recognized leader of Circle K International, a service organization that supports groups such as Ronald McDonald House and Haven of Rest. She is also a leader of the Baja SAE team, designing the steering system for the 2013 competition car. Among other things, she would like to invest her time and treasure in the advancement and growth of the engineering profession by helping younger students.

Brianna Polen, Biomedical Engineering
Imperial, Pa.
Brianna's dream is to pay it forward with improvements in medicine made possible through her education at The University of Akron and to assist others with financial support someday. She was a member of The University of Akron's cross country and track teams for several years before deciding to concentrate more intently on her engineering studies. She is a club coordinator for middle school students at the National Inventors Hall of Fame School for STEM in Akron. Brianna has accepted a full-time position with Zimmer.

Joshua D. Schnitzler, Chemical Engineering
Akron, Ohio
Joshua is overwhelmed by the generosity of the Trajectory Award donor. He is also extremely grateful to his parents and believes that because they have made sacrifices for him, he has a responsibility to do his best. He is active in the College of Engineering and the Honors College and leads the American Institute of Chemical Engineering (AICHE) student chapter. He is a member of Tau Beta Pi, earning the AICHE Outstanding Senior Award, and is working with his professor, Dr. Chelsea Monty, to develop a flexible resistive temperature device that can be embedded in prosthetic limbs to sense conditions such as temperature and humidity. He can clearly articulate his loyalty to the College of Engineering, the Honors College, and the University of Akron, and promises to seek opportunities to give back.

Paul Young, Chemical Engineering
Cortland, Ohio
Paul is president of the AICHE student chapter, a member of the Engineering Student Council, an active leader on the Chem-E car team, and a member of the "Corrosion Squad." He plans to return to The University of Akron to earn his graduate degree in engineering.


Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or henryd@uakron.edu.