Practicality leads Wieringas to establish CE scholarship
Emily Wieringa (BSCE ’99) considers herself a practical person. It is no surprise, then, that Wieringa and her husband, Steven (BS Technology ’99), chose to be practical about their giving to the Lyles School of Civil Engineering.
Seeing college debt as an increasingly significant burden for today’s students, the Wieringas made the decision to address that issue by creating a scholarship fund. The couple, who now live in the Columbus, Ohio, area, established the Wieringa Family Civil Engineering Scholarship in 2017.
“Helping others is just the right thing to do, and this is one way of doing it,” says Emily Wieringa, director of construction and project engineering at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. “Steve and I were blessed to have parents who helped financially during college so that we could graduate without a huge amount of debt. Loans can be overwhelming, and sponsoring a scholarship is one way to help lighten the load for a student. It just makes sense.”
Emily Wieringa is no stranger to hard work and dedication. A fourth-generation engineer, Wieringa says that engineering “did not come easy” for her, but she stayed with it because she knew it would provide a strong foundation. Being a woman in a field frequently dominated by men also offered challenges.
“As a female civil engineering student at Purdue, I didn’t feel in the minority because people are people in college. However, fast-forward to my first day on a construction site — now that was a major awakening,” she says. “I was 15 years junior to most of the men in the field, and there definitely were no other females. When you’re thrown in the water, you either sink or swim. I was never going to be the one to sink. At the core, if you’re a hard worker with integrity, the respect will follow.”
Almost 20 years later, Wieringa’s hard work, patience and practicality have paid off. She oversees an array of projects at the zoo while Steven Wieringa works as a commercial pilot for United Airlines.
The Wieringas, college friends who married after graduation, have two young daughters. The hope of shaping their daughters’ outlook on generosity, combined with their Purdue experiences, have fueled the Wieringas’ desire to give back.
“Purdue’s competitive, rigorous engineering program strengthened my self-discipline and determination. It trained me to work diligently,” Emily Wieringa says. “As the cliché goes, Steve and I feel we’re paying it forward to someone else who is dedicated to working hard and making an impact. In addition, we’re planting seeds for our daughters. Leading by example and showing empathy for others can provide a foundation for them.”