Gifts that transform

ginncon38“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” – William James

A commitment to become one of the top engineering programs in the country is no small undertaking. It takes great effort on the part of many people, both outside and within the college. As the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering works to take its place among the nation’s premier institutions, there are those among us who believe that their participation makes a difference.

Sam Ginn, ’59 industrial management, and Walt Woltosz, ’69 and ’77 aerospace engineering, along with their wives Ann and Ginger – who are equally committed to the success of the college – have made significant gifts to help ensure Auburn Engineering’s continued success.

Sam and Ann Ginn began giving back to Auburn early in their married life with a gift of $25. Their giving, as well as their involvement, has grown steadily through the years, culminating in the college’s largest private gift in its history in 2000 – a $25 million investment that put the college on a new trajectory and resulted in it bearing Ginn’s name. They have continued to support the college with financial commitments of nearly $40 million.

The Ginns’ contributions have set a course for the college to achieve new levels of excellence and to initiate the nation’s first undergraduate degree program in wireless engineering. Auburn Engineering continues to reap the benefits of the Ginns’ vision for the college.

Most recently, their support has resulted in a new, attractive entry to the engineering perimeter of campus which includes the Ginn Gates, Ginn Concourse and a central gathering area and water feature known as the Ann Vance Ginn Plaza. Creating a more aesthetic entry into the university on the north side of campus from Magnolia Avenue, the Ginn Gates and Ginn Concourse proceed to the Thach Concourse, with the Ann Vance Ginn Plaza offering a focal point. The new concourse and water feature have enabled the university to update and beautify this portion of campus.

Many alumni and friends, as well as a number of corporate partners, have invested recently in new, state-of-the-art engineering facilities that enable the college to advance technology in a variety of disciplines. The contributions of the Ginn family have provided a means to create external spaces that match the appeal and attractiveness of our new engineering facilities. Their philanthropy has continued a commitment to providing a growing and dynamic engineering campus.

A place of serenity
The Ann Vance Ginn Plaza, located just east of the Shelby Center for Engineering Technology, features a cascading waterfall in a casual setting of granite and greenery.

It is a place that honors her work in bringing the project to completion, as well as her connection to the Auburn campus and the engineering quad. Born in South Carolina and raised in North Carolina, Ann first became familiar with all things Auburn through her husband’s involvement in the university.

Appreciating the beauty of the campus, Ann felt the need to create an inviting retreat that would provide a peaceful place where students could gather, and where they would find a renewed sense of purpose in its tranquility. She also thought of the waterfall as a source of strength and continuity.

Finally, Ann sought to create a place that speaks to the special bond of the Auburn spirit, one that brings us together in a common experience. Having found her own sense of connection to Auburn, it has been her hope that all will benefit from the beauty and serenity of the plaza in the years to come.

Those who know Ann realize that the qualities she sees in the waterfall and plaza are the same qualities that others see in her. A woman of grace and understanding, her caring demeanor is one that is easily recognized and appreciated.

Closely involved with the planning of the plaza, Ann’s vision was that her belief in the Auburn family and value of higher education would be reflected in its execution and in its use. Those who experience the beauty and grace of the plaza invariably feel the same way.

Advancing research
Walt and Ginger Woltosz have long supported faculty and students at Auburn, beginning with a gift of $50 in 1978. Their subsequent gifts have totaled nearly $13 million, and include resources for unrestricted funding, scholarships and student projects such as the Formula and Baja SAE student competition teams, as well as the Department of Aerospace Engineering. In addition, their recognition of the value of graduate education led them to make a generous gift to the college’s graduate fellowship program. In honor of this contribution, students who receive support from this funding are known as Woltosz Fellows.

JLK_2426This spring, Walt and Ginger made a commitment to provide the second largest private gift in the college’s history with an investment of more than $10 million to support the educational needs of our students, and provide funds for faculty research efforts and technical advances in our research facilities. The gift enhances the Woltosz Graduate Fellowship Program which allows the college to recruit and retain outstanding graduate students. It also creates a new endowed professorship in the Department of Aerospace Engineering in addition to the one the couple has previously funded, and establishes a Fund for Excellence within the college to support initiatives in strategic areas.

In recognition of their support, the Auburn University’s Board of Trustees voted to name the college’s central research facility as the Woltosz Engineering Research Laboratory. The facility, constructed as a part of Phase II of the Shelby Center for Engineering Technology, creates space for both ongoing and emerging research within the college. Flexible laboratories and state-of-the-art clean rooms provide space for conducting research that will transform the future of many of the college’s research endeavors.

The generosity of these families, in addition to the many gifts our alumni and friends make to the college, are the foundation on which Auburn Engineering will continue to achieve the benchmarks associated with a top engineering program. There is work to be done, and our benefactors continue to demonstrate a commitment to making a difference in the future of the college.

Meet the donors
Samuel L. (Sam) Ginn
Sam Ginn has more than four decades of experience in the telecommunications industry. Following his service with the Army Signal Corps, he built a 27-year career with AT&T beginning as a student engineer in 1960. Ginn progressed rapidly to the top levels of AT&T.

After the Bell Systems breakup, Ginn joined Pacific Telephone in 1978 as vice president – Los Angeles, going on to serve as chairman and CEO of Pacific Telesis from 1988 until 1994. He then launched AirTouch, a pioneer in the cellular industry, which at the time, was the largest wireless provider globally, operating in 14 countries. Airtouch then merged with Vodafone and Ginn became chairman Vodafone LLC.

6In 2012, the Secretary of Commerce named Ginn the inaugural chairman of the board of directors for First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). The organization works to develop a nationwide broadband network to enable public safety officials to communicate more effectively. Ginn served on the board for two years, laying critical groundwork during FirstNet’s formative years. During his time with FirstNet, he was honored with the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials’ 2014 Leadership in Advancing Communications Policy Award, and was recognized as a champion in the public safety community.

He has served as the driving force behind the wireless engineering degree program at Auburn and continues to be involved with the institution through its wireless advisory board. In September, Ginn will be inducted into the Wireless Hall of Fame in ceremonies in Las Vegas, which he views as a key honor in a distinguished career.

In addition to his industrial management degree, Ginn was awarded Auburn University’s honorary doctorate in 1998. He was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 1992. Ginn also served on the university’s board of trustees from 2005-2013 and is a member of the Engineering Eagles Society and the university’s 1856 Society.

Walter S. (Walt) Woltosz
Combining his engineering knowledge with a problem-solving approach, Woltosz has established himself as an engineer who has improved the quality of life for people worldwide. His technologies have set him apart in three distinct careers – the aerospace industry, technology-assisted communications, and pharmaceutical research and development.

During his 13-year career in the aerospace industry, he managed the development of software for the simulation and optimization of a wide range of solid propellant rocket motors and missile systems, including the space shuttle.

A_JDE3813Woltosz has coupled his engineering accomplishments with sound business practices and seen the success of two cutting- edge companies. He is chairman, president and CEO of Simulations Plus, Inc., a leading developer of pharmaceutical simulations and modeling software, and its subsidiary, Words+, Inc., a provider of state-of-the-art communications products. His innovative communications systems have been used by people with disabilities throughout the world.

Woltosz holds the Distinguished Auburn Engineer Award and was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, the Engineering Keystone Society, the Engineering Eagles Society, and the Engineering Ginn Society, as well as the 1856 Society and the All American Society.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.