The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has received a $2 million gift from alumni Kit Schmoker and her late husband, Dick Schmoker, for an endowed faculty chair in systems engineering in the College of Engineering.
The Catherine and Richard C. Schmoker Presidential Chair in Systems Engineering was established at the University of Nebraska Foundation to create an endowed fund that will permanently support a faculty leadership position. It will allow the university to recruit an accomplished expert to lead the academic and research initiatives of a systems engineering program. In this role, the Schmoker Presidential Chair will recruit additional systems engineering faculty.
“Longtime university supporters Kit and Dick Schmoker have provided a game-changing gift for UNL, one that is directly tied to what we are striving to achieve in workforce development,” Chancellor Ronnie Green said. “The Schmoker Presidential Chair sets the university on a strong path to becoming a national leader in the critical field of systems engineering while enhancing the economic competitiveness of the state.”
Systems engineering involves defining, synthesizing, analyzing, designing and evaluating complex systems containing hardware, software and human elements across their life cycles. It has wide application across a variety of fields, including computer and communications networks, financial systems and large collections of internet-enabled devices. Skilled graduates in systems engineering are in high demand in Nebraska and nationally.
Lance C. Pérez, dean of the College of Engineering, said a prestigious presidential chair will enable the college to recruit an “exceptionally qualified” senior faculty member to lead its systems engineering program.
“The Schmoker Presidential Chair will advance both our education and research capacity in systems engineering,” Pérez said. “This will enable the university to be a partner in addressing national security needs associated with the next generation of nuclear command, control and communications infrastructure. It also has strong applications in cyberinfrastructure for agriculture, finance, transportation and many other industries.”
Careers in systems engineering are anticipated to be especially needed in Nebraska. The U.S. Department of Defense has tasked the U.S. Strategic Command, located at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, with modernizing the military’s Nuclear Command, Control and Communications infrastructure. To meet this challenge, the government has identified the need for a new generation of engineers with expertise in systems engineering.
“Dick and I wanted to create an innovative and lasting new vision for the University of Nebraska‒Lincoln,” Kit Schmoker said. “The Schmoker Presidential Chair in Systems Engineering is an exciting opportunity for new leadership in the College of Engineering for systems engineering. It represents a new vision reaching new horizons. A new vision for excellence. A new vision for students. A new vision in engineering progress. A new vision moving forward at Nebraska.”
A Presidential Chair Award, with its support from an endowed fund, is the highest academic honor the university can confer on its faculty members and recognizes those who are a top scholar within a discipline. It enables the university to award faculty members with an annual stipend for salary, research and program support. Recipients of the award are selected based on outstanding teaching and research ability, academic promise and career accomplishments.
Richard “Dick” Schmoker graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1962 and the College of Law in 1964. Catherine “Kit” (Stuart) Schmoker graduated from the College of Education and Human Sciences in 1964. The two married in Lincoln in 1963 and moved to Edina, Minnesota, where Dick Schmoker worked his entire career with Faegre and Benson. He died on April 3, 2022, at age 81.
Over the years, the Schmokers have provided philanthropic support to the College of Law, including funding for faculty, educational facilities and the endowed Richard C. and Catherine Stuart Schmoker Professorship. They also generously supported the Kit and Dick Schmoker Reading Center within the College of Education and Human Sciences, which provides reading and writing tutoring to children, and they provided a major gift toward construction of the Adele Coryell Hall Learning Commons.