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Meet the Dean’s Circle

From Left To Right, Sam Burgiss (EE '66, '68, '71), Laura Geary (ISE '17), Karen (ACC '88) And Steve Welton (CE '88 '92)
From Left To Right, Sam Burgiss (EE '66, '68, '71), Laura Geary (ISE '17), Karen (ACC '88) And Steve Welton (CE '88 '92)

Meet some Dean’s Circle donors, and learn why they give

Now more than ever, NC State students need your support.

The Dean’s Circle, the College’s leadership annual giving program recognizing all unrestricted gifts of $1,000 or more, is focused on providing competitive recruiting undergraduate and graduate scholarships and fellowship awards.

Ensuring that our most deserving students are able to obtain all of the benefits that come with an NC State engineering education is a solid investment that pays off for the state.

Sam Burgiss came to NC State in 1964 to study electrical engineering. He decided to stay awhile.

As a boy in Yadkinville, NC, Burgiss took an early interest in electronics and worked in a television repair shop in high school. He settled on NC State because it was an excellent school and affordable for North Carolina residents.

Burgiss paid for his education through summer jobs and teaching positions, and was just focused on earning his bachelor’s degree. But a faculty member encouraged him to stay on and earn his master’s. Soon enough, he was encouraged to earn a Ph.D. So, he did.

After graduation, Burgiss was employed by a couple of different companies before moving to Knoxville, Tenn., to work on one of the first PET scanners. He then joined the University of Tennessee (UT) Medical Center and was appointed to a faculty position with the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, doing research on healthcare technology and establishing the university’s telemedicine program.

“It was very interesting and rewarding to have something to do with both of these technologies,” he said.

Burgiss and his wife, Janet, had two boys, both engineers themselves. He retired in 2005 but still does consulting work with UT.

He remembers all of the assistance and opportunities that were provided by faculty members and is appreciative of the fulfilling career that was made possible by his NC State education.

Burgiss is motivated to support the College of Engineering so that he can help make that same opportunity a reality for the next generation.

“I like to try and help a student to be focused on education, rather than finances.”

Laura Geary grew up in a rural farming community in Maryland. The daughter of a single mother, Geary is the first person in her family to earn a four-year degree.

Geary finished her bachelor’s degree from the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) in 2017 and jumped in to giving back to the College of Engineering early on.

“My degree means so much to me,” Geary said. “I don’t want to take it for granted, ever.”

As a teenager, Geary spent time in the Research Triangle area visiting a cousin attending Duke University. She wanted to come to North Carolina for college and knew her future was in a STEM field. When she set her sights on engineering NC State, and its ties to agriculture, felt like home.

She came to Raleigh not knowing anyone, but quickly fell into friendships playing volleyball on Tucker Beach and participating in club tennis and table tennis. She matriculated into ISE as a sophomore, attracted by the diverse opportunities that a degree offers.

Since graduation, she has held positions with GE Industrial Solutions, ABB, Inc. and now Intel. In each role, she’s utilized the ISE education to manage leaner supply chains and streamline logistics of sales operations. Her reward, Geary says, is to work with great people and to make their work life more enjoyable with the improvements she is able to produce.

Geary was one of the first volunteers and leaders of the NC State Engineering Foundation’s (NCSEF) Young Alumni Advisory Board, tasked with helping young professionals connect and give back to the College at an early age. Geary was the board’s first events chair, helping plan gatherings where alumni can make connections with each other and find out what their alma mater is doing today.

“Giving back not only financially but spending time with people who love NC State as much as I do is incredibly enjoyable,” she said.

Karen and Steve Welton met in a freshman English class in NC State’s Tompkins Hall in fall 1984. After a couple of decades raising a family and running a business together, they’re back on campus.

Steve, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering, is a senior lecturer in the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering (CCEE). Karen, who earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting, is an executive assistant in the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE).

After graduation, Steve worked as a structural engineer for a couple of firms before starting a company of his own serving the Virginia Tidewater region. Karen, who had been with a couple of different companies, was soon running the office and handling payroll, accounting and marketing.

In 2014, Steve had an opportunity to try his hand at teaching the senior design course in structures in CCEE. He’s still teaching senior design, plus several other classes, and serves as faculty advisor for a few student groups. Karen also works closely with students coordinating travel and the department’s presence at national conferences.

Supporting the College, and the students they love spending time with and mentoring, is a natural.

“We have longstanding connections with this place,” Steve said. “We are both very grateful for the experiences we’ve had. We’re very honored to be in this position to be stewards.”

The Weltons will find themselves in the same building this fall as CCEE and ISE move into their new home in Fitts-Woolard Hall on Centennial Campus.

“We were very lucky to be able to come back here and both have jobs that we really love,” Karen said. “And we get to move into a new building.”

Return to contents or download the Fall/Winter 2020 NC State Engineering magazine (PDF, MB).

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