- Apply to UW
- Programs & Majors
- Cost & Financial Aid
- Current Students
- UW Life
- About UW
Published July 12, 2023
A gift from retired Shell engineer and executive Tom Botts and his wife, Shelley, to the University of Wyoming supports the head of the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. This gift was matched by the UW Foundation.
“Shelley and I are very proud of our Wyoming roots and what the University of Wyoming has given us,” Botts says. “My civil engineering education at UW enabled me to succeed in a very competitive industry and have the confidence to succeed in whatever job I was in. We are pleased to give back to UW.”
This gift establishes the Thomas and Shelley Botts Department Head in Civil Engineering. The purpose of this endowed position is to recruit and retain a strong department head by garnering the attention of nationally recognized scholars or industry leaders. It provides a flexible source of funding that can be used to foster excellence in the department and provide support for departmental needs and special initiatives.
“The university is deeply honored by Tom and Shelley’s generous and transformational gift,” UW President Ed Seidel says. “The Thomas and Shelley Botts Department Head in Civil Engineering will enable UW to attract the best and brightest to lead the department, ultimately enhancing our students’ success and ability to serve the state of Wyoming.”
“Tom and Shelly have been steadfast supporters of UW for many years and in many dimensions,” UW Provost Kevin Carman says. “Their extraordinary gift in support of the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management is a wonderful capstone to their generosity. It will assure that the department has strong leadership and critical resources to fulfill its mission. I’m hopeful that Tom and Shelley’s gift will inspire other successful alumni to make similar investments into the future of UW.”
UW’s Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management teaches future engineers and construction managers the theoretical and practical expertise they need in their fields.
“What a tremendous show of support,” says Anthony Denzer, head of the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management. “This gift is a ringing endorsement of the outstanding programs we offer, and it reflects the great work of my team. Civil engineering is central to the quality of life we enjoy and the challenges we face in the future -- thank you to Tom and Shelley for recognizing that and investing in our vision.”
The department teaches civil engineering students about infrastructure and urban and rural land development in preparation to become professional engineers, and department faculty members work on cutting-edge subjects such as intelligent transportation systems and carbon capture and storage.
Civil engineers work in rural and urban areas designing roads and bridges, municipal water systems, sewer systems, wastewater treatment plants, dams, irrigation channels, excavations, slope-stability projects and much more.
Within the department, the architectural engineering program prepares students to design building systems in preparation to become professional engineers -- although this is not an architecture degree. The program has a strong reputation for building information modeling, which is the 3D computer modeling of building systems and simulated building performance.
Faculty strengths include structural engineering and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) with a focus on energy-efficient systems. The program also offers a summer study-abroad program in Europe.
Finally, the department’s construction management program is a new program, with its first graduating class in 2022. Construction management is an up-and-coming occupation that is growing at a faster rate than any other occupation in the United States.
Demand for construction managers comes from the increasing complexity of new buildings and industrial construction, as well as a projected increase in retirements of current construction managers. This program prepares a future workforce capable of competing in and driving technological advancements in construction industries.
“Part of the calculus about the gift is our confidence in the leadership and the direction of the university and the university foundation,” Botts says. “That’s an important aspect -- especially in the last five years, there have been just tremendous things happening at the university that we want to be involved in.”
Tom and Shelley both grew up in Wyoming -- Tom on his family’s ranch near Riverton. Living and working throughout the world, they raised three children and now have four grandchildren. They have now returned to the state, retiring to Jackson.
Both Tom and Shelley went to UW.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for the education and the professors I had back in civil engineering,” he says. “They all prepared me very well.”
Tom earned his civil engineering degree from UW in 1977 and, two weeks later, he and Shelley married. Shelley later earned her law degree. Together, they embarked on careers in the energy industry in California, Texas, England, Scotland and the Netherlands. Right out of college, Shell hired Tom as a production engineer, and he stayed with the company his entire 36-year career.
Botts served as division operations manager responsible for onshore upstream operations in the western half of the U.S., and later he assumed responsibility for both engineering and operations as division production manager. Then he was appointed treasurer of Shell Oil Co.
The Bottses moved to London and then on to Scotland, where Tom held positions as the first American U.K. gas director, U.K. oil director and U.K. managing director. They then moved to the Netherlands, and he became executive vice president for exploration and production Europe. He was named executive vice president of Global Manufacturing Royal Dutch Shell in 2009. In that role, Botts led a team of 30,000 employees and contractors at 30 refineries and petrochemical sites around the world. He retired in 2012.
Botts’ career moved from engineer to team leader to treasurer to managing director to executive vice president-- from engineering to operations to management.
“You can ask me whatever you want done, and I’ll go figure it out,” Botts says. “Where did all that come from? I think it came, in large part, from the University of Wyoming civil engineering department.”
Throughout, Botts has stayed very involved with the state and its university. He is a member of the UW Foundation Board of Directors, formerly serving as chair, and, in 2012, he was appointed by Gov. Matt Mead to the Wyoming Governor’s Energy, Engineering and STEM Integration Task Force and co-chaired the Tier-1 Engineering Initiative. He also has served as director of the Energy Resources Council for UW’s School of Energy Resources.
Previously, the Bottses established the Thomas and Shelley Botts Endowed Chair in Unconventional Reservoirs, which supports faculty who work on domestic and international research in the area of petroleum reservoirs from shale, coal, tight-sand and oil-sand. That research takes place in the state-of-the-art High Bay Research Facility.
“We’ve stayed really involved,” Botts says. “I think that my involvement with the foundation has helped me see where the needs are.”
He asks himself and others: “How do you want to pay it forward? How do you want to get involved -- not just passively.”
“Tom and Shelley have made invaluable contributions to our UW community,” says John Stark, UW Foundation president and CEO. “Their philanthropy has supported engineering faculty in so many ways, and we are so fortunate to be able to incorporate Tom’s extensive professional expertise into the future direction of engineering and the university.”
This gift is part of a major institutional fundraising priority of UW -- faculty excellence, as faculty are the bedrock of the institution and student success. Institutional fundraising priorities guide UW private giving on those things that are most important to Wyoming’s university and allow UW’s supporters to connect with those areas they are most passionate about.