Arden Weiss, AgE Alumnus, gives back to department through EVS Initiative

September 12, 2019

Arden Weiss (BS '61 AgE, MS '65 AgE) was an agricultural engineer before he knew what agricultural engineering was.

“I grew up on a farm and attended school in Freeburg, Illinois,” says Arden. “My high school taught me two things I’ve used all my life – electrical wiring and welding. I did all the welding that needed to be done on the farm in those days, and I designed an auger wagon out of an old John Deere combine bin. It didn’t hold 1200 bushels like they run now,” he says with a laugh, “but we used the heck out of it. It sure beat shoveling those soybeans.”

It was 1954, and Arden was a sophomore in high school. He submitted his drawings for that wagon to a national competition, the James F. Lincoln Welding Awards, and won second place. “The prize was a 220 arc welder,” he says. “I still have it, and I still use it. The cables are kind of worn, and the switch doesn’t work anymore, but I plug it in, and it turns on.”

Arden says that experience led to his interest in agricultural engineering, and he earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the Department of Agricultural Engineering (now Agricultural and Biological Engineering) at Illinois. As a student he interned with the Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service), and took a job with the SCS after graduation. “I designed sediment control structures and spent a lot of time on a drafting table with a hand calculator and a slide rule,” he says.

Arden’s career has been long and varied. While earning his master’s degree, he went to work for Quaker Oats in Chicago, and then on to McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis. He worked for the state of Texas in Austin to re-do the 1968 State Water Plan. He worked for the U.S. Water Resources Council, in Washington, DC, and helped complete the 1975 National Water Assessment. He has also done consulting work for the United Nations and spent time in the former Yugoslavia, working on a technology transfer program to the Mihajlo Pupin Institute.

Now Arden is giving back to his alma mater with a gift that will benefit students in ABE through the Engineering Visionary Scholarship (EVS) Initiative in The Grainger College of Engineering.  Arden’s gift will be combined with funds from a trust in his parent’s name; it is the first Engineering Visionary Scholarship dedicated to Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

The EVS Initiative was launched with the help of a $30 million endowment from the Grainger Engineering Breakthrough Initiative. The Engineering Visionary Scholarship Initiative attracts the brightest students, ensures a diverse and talented class, and makes college more affordable for students and their families. A particular focus is placed on highly qualified students from the state of Illinois. The Arden Weiss Engineering Visionary Scholarship will encourage potential students to choose Agricultural and Biological Engineering within Grainger Engineering.

“I think it’s important to recognize and reward students who have demonstrated excellence and who have contributed to the department and the community,” says Arden. “Those are the people who are going to make a difference in the future.”

Arden met his wife, Caroline, on a blind date at the University of Illinois, and they have been married 57 years. Arden and Caroline know that an Engineering Visionary Scholarship through The Grainger Matching Challenge will double the impact of their gift, and they hope to make further contributions in the future.  Qualifying gifts and commitments to the EVS Initiative will be matched by the Grainger Foundation through 12/19/2019. Learn more about the Engineering Visionary Scholarship Initiative and how you can make an impact on our campus through The Grainger Matching Challenge.

If you would like to support Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Illinois through one of our department’s many scholarship funds, please visit our website.

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