Adventurous Alumna Keeps Purdue in her Plans

A Purdue education laid the foundation for this mechanical engineer turned financial consultant.

Financial consultant, business owner, college professor, adventure traveler — and engineer, Melanie Petsch (BSME ’88) is an accomplished individual with a penchant for “living in the moment.”

In addition to earning a mechanical engineering degree from Purdue, she has started her own research consultancy firm in New York City, studied finance in the PhD program and earned an MBA from the University of Chicago, spent more than 20 years working on Wall Street and frequently travels globally — solo.

Inspired by Adventure

It was while preparing for one of her many globetrotting adventures that Petsch first made Purdue one of her beneficiaries. She made the decision to include a deferred estate gift in her will.

Petsch says she was reminded of the importance of planning for the future during a trip to Costa Rica. There, she found herself on a small boat in a muddy river surrounded by mangrove swamps with a family who didn’t speak English, hoping this was all on the itinerary. (It was — they arrived at the eco-resort about an hour later.)

“I like to do adventurous things, including travel,” Petsch says. “Having a plan for my estate, such as it is, is part of setting up the backdrop for those adventurous things.”

An Unrestricted Gift

The deferred gift to the School of Mechanical Engineering, like Petsch herself, is unrestricted. Unrestricted funds give the school head the freedom and flexibility to invest in areas most needed.

“I think the school does a good job running itself,” Petsch says. “Enabling the school to decide where to add resources seems likely to have the greatest impact on students. Having a mechanical engineering education is so worthwhile; I am happy to provide support.”

Gregory Shaver, a professor of mechanical engineering and strong advocate for the school, well understands the needs of ME and the importance of unrestricted gifts. He explains that contributions like Petsch’s are essential to meeting the College of Engineering’s Strategic Growth goal of enhancing the student experience.

“Such gifts are crucial to our delivery of a cost-effective, world-class education,” Shaver says. “Gifts like Melanie’s allow us to provide even more value to our students. Better equipment and facilities allow us to better explain the concepts we cover in the classroom, as well as give our students more impactful hands-on experiences.”

“Purdue is clearly known as one of the top engineering schools in the world,” Petsch says, “and it prepared me well for my career. I learned how to think about data and statistics there. Those are skills that I’ve applied to both engineering and finance and that I continue to enhance. My engineering professors and courses taught me critical-thinking skills and the scientific approach — you could call it an engineer’s mindset.”

Education through Communication

Petsch also supports education in her role as an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She uses her real-world experiences, along with the knowledge she obtained through the MBA and PhD programs at the University of Chicago, to inspire future leaders.

“I find it rewarding to work with students,” she says. “It is also a way to give back and promote education. I am happy to help Purdue provide other students a valuable education like my own.”

Petsch highlights the importance of conveying complex ideas, whether in engineering or finance, in an easily understood way — to students as well as her clients. Petsch says, “Regardless of the industry, the emphasis on the ability to communicate has grown exponentially over the past few decades. I try to instill in my students the importance of clearly communicating their ideas and solutions.”

Petsch says she hopes her gift will allow the School of Mechanical Engineering to prepare students to take on challenges that seem extraordinary.

“I came to discover I enjoy the challenge of finance,” she says. “I want my gift to provide resources for students to discover their own passions. I hope other alumni will join me in giving back to the Purdue community.”

To support the School of Mechanical Engineering, contact Scott Banfield, senior director of development, at 765-494-5629Call 765-494-5629 or