PROFESSOR BOB WOODS recalls the day 25 years ago that he stopped by the A.E. Petsche Co. in search of high-tech wire for the vehicles his engineering students were designing through the formula racing program at The University of Texas (UT) at Arlington. Arnold Petsche gladly filled Woods’ request. That initial meeting launched an enduring friendship between Petsche, Woods and UT Arlington; mechanical and aerospace engineering students at UT Arlington would benefit from Petsche’s support through the decades.
Now Petsche has made a new, $1 million commitment to UT Arlington’s College of Engineering; he has established the Arnold E. Petsche Center for Automotive Engineering endowment. His gift will double in value through the university’s Maverick Match program to create a $2 million endowment. (The Maverick Match program leverages natural gas royalties to attract new philanthropic commitments.) Petsche’s is the second major gift to the university from the family: Petsche’s son and daughter-in-law, Alan and Bonnie Smith Petsche, donated $1 million for the College Park Center’s court.
The Petsche Center will promote engineering education, innovation and entrepreneurship, especially through student participation in the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) program, which Woods advises. Each year, participating students design an FSAE car from the tires up; they then race their vehicles against collegiate teams from across the country.
“We helped out,” Petsche said of that initial meeting with Woods, but added that his company, which would ultimately become a leading supplier of high-performance wire and cable for the aerospace industry, benefitted as well. “We found out UT Arlington engineering produces some great students. So we hired a couple of part-time employees from Bob’s program, then we began hiring full-time employees. It just mushroomed from there.”
Petsche, who holds a mechanical engineering degree, said the real-world knowledge that students gain through the FSAE program translated well at A.E. Petsche Co., a company he started in his garage and built into a multi-million dollar business before selling it in 2009.
UT Arlington President James D. Spaniolo said commitments from industry leaders like Mr. Petsche advance excellence in UT Arlington’s academic and research endeavors. “Arnold Petsche’s generosity and his passion for innovation and entrepreneurship will have a lasting impact on our students for generations to come,” Spaniolo said. “It’s humbling to see his investment in their education and success, and we are deeply appreciative for his support.”
The Petsche Center will allow students to earn a new Certificate in Automotive Engineering and a Certificate in Engineering Entrepreneurship; the center will also promote other automotive engineering initiatives. Part of the Petsche gift will be used to create a Hall of Honor in UT Arlington’s Woolf Hall to house FSAE trophies and display winning cars. UT Arlington has staged annual FSAE rallies on the Arlington campus for the past 12 years. The team also travels to other events across the nation.
The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,200 students in the heart of North Texas.
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