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BYU announces $10 million donation for engineering global leadership center

Brigham Young University alumni Dave and Rachel Weidman have donated $10 million to fund a new center for global leadership at their alma mater.

The Weidman Center for Global Leadership will be part of the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology, where Dave earned a bachelor’s degree. Rachel also has a bachelor’s degree from BYU.

“In an increasingly global world, today’s engineering and technical talent must be capable of operating on a global stage, leading multi-cultural teams and creating new markets to help companies meet and satisfy customer needs,” stated Dave Weidman, chairman and CEO of Celanese Corporation, a Dallas-based Fortune 500 manufacturer of specialty materials and chemical products used in most major industrial and consumer applications. “Establishing a leadership center dedicated to enabling BYU to develop talented engineers and technologists will help contribute in a meaningful and purposeful way to building tomorrow’s global business, engineering and technology leaders.”

The Weidman Center joins the ranks of recently established leadership-focused programs at top engineering schools at MIT, Stanford and Michigan. It will prepare engineers to leave BYU with not only strong technical skills, but also the ability to lead teams across cultures and time zones.

“The challenges of competing in a global economy and addressing the problems facing humankind will require globally competent leaders with strong technical skills,” said Alan Parkinson, dean of the Ira A. Fulton College. “The Weidmans’ remarkable generosity will allow us to accelerate our efforts to teach and practice leadership in a global context.”

The donation is complete, so the center is fully endowed. The next step will be to hire a director to establish and coordinate even more international experiences for engineering students. The college already sends more than 100 students abroad every year.

The Weidman Center, which will be housed in the Clyde Building, will create more opportunities similar to these two recent examples:

-- As part of a consortium sponsored by GM, BYU engineers led students at 20 institutions spanning 16 time zones and speaking 8 languages in the design and construction of a Formula One racecar.

-- A student team was engaged by a non-profit to design an innovative and cost-effective apparatus that enables poor East African women to turn abundant coconuts into valuable coconut oil. They delivered their oil press to Tanzania and trained women how to use it.

The Center will also support faculty in developing curriculum and establishing international academic and industrial contacts.

One reason BYU’s engineering and technology college is uniquely suited for developing global engineering leaders is the fact that nearly 70 percent of the college’s 3,080 undergraduates and 360 graduate students are fluent in a second language.

This is not the Weidmans’ first donation to BYU. They have been members of BYU’s President’s Leadership Council, a group of generous donors involved with the university, since 2009.

“The Weidman Center will play a critical role in advancing our abilities to prepare BYU students for global leadership,” said university President Cecil O. Samuelson. “Dave and Rachel are great friends to BYU. They don’t seek attention for their good works, but we want them to know we couldn’t be more grateful for their support.”

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