Alumnus creates first named deanship for UNL College of Engineering

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Alumnus creates first named deanship for UNL College of Engineering

Lance C. Pérez to be inaugural Fred Hunzeker Dean of Engineering
Color portraits of Fred Hunzeker and Lance C. Pérez on a red campus background.
Fred Hunzeker (left) and Dean Lance C. Pérez

A first-ever named deanship has been established for the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Engineering through the generosity of alumnus Fred Hunzeker.

The Fred Hunzeker Dean of Engineering will help ensure strong leadership during a pivotal time in the history of Nebraska Engineering. Pending approval of the University of Nebraska President’s Office, Lance C. Pérez will be the inaugural recipient.

“It is truly an honor to be the inaugural recipient of the Fred Hunzeker deanship,” said Pérez, who became dean in 2018 after spending nearly two years in the interim position. “Fred is a distinguished alumnus of the college and a great example of the range of careers and success that engineering graduates may have. Through his service on the college’s advisory board, Fred has been an important contributor to the success of the college, and this gift will allow the college dean to explore important strategic initiatives that would not be possible otherwise.”

Hunzeker pledged the gift through the University of Nebraska Foundation. The deanship will support a salary stipend; funds may also be used to support strategic initiatives within the College of Engineering. One such option is programming to support the health and wellness of engineering students inside and outside the classroom. Another is to support the college’s statewide outreach efforts to high school STEM teachers and counselors to improve recruitment of Nebraska students in engineering, computing and construction programs.

Hunzeker earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. A member of the board of directors for Tenaska, he retired as the chief executive officer of Tenaska Marketing Group in 2021. For nearly 30 years, Hunzeker led the company’s extraordinary growth from a small natural gas marketing company to one of the top five marketers in North America.

The gift was made as part of Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future, a historic effort to engage 150,000 unique benefactors to raise $3 billion to support the University of Nebraska. Hunzeker serves as the volunteer co-chair of the College of Engineering’s campaign committee and is a University of Nebraska Foundation trustee. He joined the college’s advisory board in 2016 — the same year Pérez was appointed acting dean.

“Dean Lance Pérez’s visionary leadership and tireless dedication have united stakeholders, from administration and faculty to students and donors, in a shared mission to elevate our engineering program,” Hunzeker said. “Under his guidance, the College of Engineering continues to thrive, expanding its impact as a member of the Big Ten. Dean Pérez’s passion and commitment inspire innovation and excellence within our institution and throughout the region.”

The amount of the gift commitment is being kept confidential at the donor’s request.

Pérez earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree and a doctorate from the University of Notre Dame. He came to Nebraska in 1996 as a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and is currently the Omar H. Heins Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The College of Engineering is undergoing a period of growth, fueled by construction, new faculty, student recruitment and expanded research. As Nebraska’s only engineering college, its goal is to increase undergraduate enrollment to 5,000 students to spur economic development in Nebraska and meet the state’s workforce needs. Current undergraduate enrollment is 3,413. Over the past seven years, the college has added 75 new faculty.

The college offers programs on City Campus at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and on Scott Campus at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. On City Campus, engineering facilities have been transformed through a $190 million investment, representing the largest academic facilities project in the university’s history.

In partnership with the Nebraska Legislature and University of Nebraska, the Engineering Research Center was built, and Scott Engineering Center is under renovation to showcase the college’s research enterprise. With the support of the philanthropic community, Kiewit Hall will open in January as one of the nation’s premier facilities for engineering education and engagement.

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