At least four personal goals were met and one named professorship established when Ron and Dotty Tonjes gave back to their alma mater.
The Tonjeses, founders of the successful writing company ProWrite, always wanted to give back to Purdue. In fact, they already had Purdue in their wills.
However, a unique philanthropic opportunity arose when Bill Elmore (BSEE ’75, MSEE ’76) created a $1.5 million matching initiative for two named professorships. The couple recently decided to meet the match and gave $750,000 — which established the Ron and Dotty Garvin Tonjes Professorship in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
“We realized we could afford to give now rather than waiting,” Ron Tonjes says. “The idea of funding a professorship that would last in perpetuity appealed to us, and the funds-matching opportunity enabled us to leverage our gift and make it go further. Basically, more bang for the buck.”
Plans to match
The Tonjeses’ gift and the resulting named professorship also met Bill Elmore’s original goal — and that of Venkataramanan (Ragu) Balakrishnan, the former Michael and Katherine Birck Head and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Elmore and Balakrishnan developed the funds-matching initiative to support faculty recruitment and retention.
The first half of Elmore’s incentivizing gift was matched by Steve Schwartz (BSEE ’81, MSEE ’82, PhD EE ’85) and resulted in the Richard J. and Mary Jo Schwartz Professorship in Electrical and Computer Engineering.
“Named professorships recognize our most accomplished faculty and provide them with funds to support their students and research,” says Mung Chiang, the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering. “The gift from Ron and Dotty Tonjes will be meaningful to countless future ECE faculty members and students.”
Purdue’s profound influence
Given that their marriage and their professional trajectories took root in college, it is perhaps not surprising that the Tonjeses are so generous to Purdue.
Ron (BSEE ’65) and Dotty (BS Mathematics ’66) met at Purdue in 1962, dated throughout college, were married in 1965, and have been together ever since. They can trace the genesis of ProWrite back to a time in 1963 when Dotty began editing Ron’s college lab reports.
After graduating from Purdue, Ron became a successful engineer while Dotty taught high school mathematics, edited math textbooks and worked as a technical writer. Both went on to earn graduate degrees from The Ohio State University. Ron received his MBA in 1980, and Dotty earned her master’s degree in journalism in 1983.
The couple established ProWrite in 1982. The company, which was sold in 2015, specializes in transforming highly technical concepts into documents that are easily understood by a wider audience.
“We both feel strongly about the importance of education. A degree from Purdue provides a strong background and carries a lot of weight, making professional advancement much easier,” Dotty says. “Purdue has had a profound influence on shaping our lives, both professionally and personally. Rather than giving back, we see this as giving forward.”
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Dotty and Ron Tonjes
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