By Bill Kisliuk
The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has received a $2 million gift from Sara Volgenau and her husband, UCLA alumnus and former faculty member Ernst Volgenau, to establish the Volgenau Chair in Engineering.
The endowed chair will support an engineering professor who is an accomplished researcher, teacher and mentor to future engineering leaders.
“Sara and I recognize that our nation needs capable engineers who have high ethical standards and are devoted to serving society,” said Ernst Volgenau, chairman of the information technology firm SRA International. “We are interested in supporting programs that will help our nation reach this goal. UCLA has an exceptional engineering school and a reputation as an outstanding research university.
“UCLA did a lot for me,” he said. “Sara and I want to give back.”
Volgenau earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy before attending UCLA, where he earned a doctoral degree in 1966. He founded SRA, which employs about 6,000 people and supports civil, defense and other government agencies, in 1978. He was the firm’s chief executive from 1978 to 2005.
Prior to launching the company, Volgenau served in the U.S. Air Force, helping develop space boosters and satellites, conducting large-scale analyses of weapons systems and overseeing data automation for the Air Force Logistics Command. He retired after 20 years with the rank of colonel.
From 1976 to 1978, he was director of inspection and enforcement for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, leading a team of 700 engineers who inspected the nation’s nuclear power plants.
He served for five years as rector of the George Mason University board of visitors. The university’s Volgenau School of Engineering is named in honor of Ernst and Sara, a 1957 graduate of Morehead State University and a former educator.
“We are extremely grateful to Sara and Ernst for their generous support,” said Vijay K. Dhir, dean of UCLA Engineering. “Ernst is a distinguished alumnus and engineer, as well as an accomplished business executive. This new chair will help us recruit and retain top-flight faculty to enhance our school’s tradition of excellence.”
The Volgenau chair brings the number of endowed chairs at UCLA Engineering to 27.
Image: Ernst and Sara Volgenau. Courtesy Volgenau family