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$2.5 Million Gift Advances UW Petroleum Engineering, Tier-1 Engineering Initiative

July 31, 2018
People wear hard hats in drilling simulator space for demonstration
Petroleum Engineering Associate Lecturer Tawfik Elshehabi leads the "Wyoming Energy For You" section of this summer's High School Institute, wherein students visited and practiced on the UW drilling simulator.

Alumnus David D. Le Norman’s transformational $2.5 million gift to the University of Wyoming will support engineering, energy and STEM programs, and the future of Wyoming’s economy.

The $2.5 million gift, doubled to $5 million through state matching funds, will support the Le Norman Endowed Leadership Chair in Petroleum Engineering for the head of the Department of Petroleum Engineering in the UW College of Engineering and Applied Science. It also creates an excellence fund -- the Le Norman Family Excellence Fund in Petroleum Engineering.

“My wife, Cory, and I are pleased with the result of the many people who worked on the project at the University of Wyoming,” Le Norman says. “We are especially proud of the state of Wyoming’s efforts to advance these programs with matching funds, supporting generations of future students focusing on the STEM-related fields of study. Our hopes are that the acknowledgment of these programs and this gift will stimulate future alumni investment across the board in many focus areas of study and research at the University of Wyoming.”

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“The University of Wyoming has made tremendous strides in advancing its STEM programs,” Gov. Matt Mead says. “UW has become known as a world-class university for engineering, energy, technology and science. This generous gift will help to continue producing excellent engineers and scientists that will go on to do great things. I want to thank David and Cory for the opportunity this gift will provide to the university and Wyoming.”

As president, CEO and dedicated philanthropist, Le Norman followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, both of whom were in the oil and gas industry. He earned his bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from UW, as well as earning an MBA and working toward a master’s degree in chemical engineering, both from universities in Oklahoma.

After 30 years’ experience in the industry, including Texaco, he founded Le Norman Energy and a number of other successful companies.

The generous gift of Le Norman and his wife is part of the ambitious UW Tier-1 Engineering Initiative -- a vision to fundamentally transform the College of Engineering and Applied Science into a nationally recognized institution of academic excellence and world-class research institution.

“We have been working with the University of Wyoming Foundation as well as the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Wyoming for many months to design and implement an impactful gift to advance the vision the state has for these programs,” Le Norman says.

“The Le Normans’ support of petroleum engineering at the University of Wyoming is remarkable,” UW President Laurie Nichols says. “I would like to thank them for their investment in the future of UW and Wyoming in this field that Dave knows so well. Securing strong leadership and providing excellence funds are so important for faculty and students as we offer an enhanced STEM education and pursue cutting-edge oil and gas research.”

“On behalf of our students, we’d like to thank Dave and his wife, Cory, for their generosity,” says Michael Pishko, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. “Dave has had a really remarkable career in the oil and gas industry. Not only has Dave been generous with his financial resources, he’s also been generous with his time and has devoted a lot of his energy toward working the college and the university to the next level.”

The Tier-1 Engineering Initiative is the result of Mead’s Energy, Engineering, STEM Integration Task Force. Formed in 2012, the task force was created by the governor to underscore the synergy that can be developed across the fields of energy and STEM.

This task force, led by prominent industry leaders and public officials with deep ties to Wyoming and UW, has resulted in millions of dollars of private and public investments in the university and its new facilities and programs, including a new $105 million Engineering Education and Research Building, which is slated for completion in 2019.

The Engineering Education and Research Building, across Lewis Street from the existing Engineering Building, will provide space for modern instruction and research; a new shop; student project areas; teaching and computer labs in active-learning configurations; reconfigurable research labs with associated office and collaborative spaces; meeting and conference rooms; and an expanded drilling simulator facility. The engineering facility is the largest capital facilities project in university history.

The goals of the Tier-1 Engineering Initiative include excellence in undergraduate education; world-class research and graduate education; productive economic development through partnerships; and K-14 STEM education.

Prior to the Tier-1 Engineering Initiative, UW’s strengths included high-quality faculty, a 20:1 student-to-faculty ratio and students who consistently pass the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam well above the national average. Since it began, the initiative has created three chairs, nine excellence funds, two scholarship funds and one faculty fellowship to contribute to these efforts.

Tier-1 funding supports student scholarships and promotes student success through student services, such as career placement, internship programs, co-op programs and other experiential programs. It supports K-12 outreach programs for middle school and high school students and their teachers.

Tier-1 funding also supports multidisciplinary research clusters; partnerships with industry, faculty and research scientists; graduate student fellowships; and postdoctoral positions. It supports research centers of excellence of economic importance to Wyoming, including unconventional reservoirs, enhanced oil recovery, wind energy, water and artificial intelligence.

New and renovated facilities related to the Tier-1 Engineering Initiative include the Michael B. Enzi STEM Facility for undergraduate education and the High Bay Research Facility, both completed, and the Engineering Education and Research Building currently under construction.

The support of the governor, the Legislature and the state has been vital in the development of the Tier-1 Engineering Initiative, which impacts not only the future of Wyoming, but Wyoming’s way of life, according to UW officials. Corporate partnerships have and will continue to play a key role in funding these facilities. UW extends its utmost gratitude for this support, officials add.

UW and the UW Foundation continue to rally alumni, donors and friends in support of Wyoming’s university and its vision for the future of engineering, energy and STEM programs.


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