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University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering

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Alumnus Establishes $50K Endowed Scholarship for UH Chemical Engineering Students

By: 

Natalie Thayer

Chemical engineering alumnus Mike Piwetz and his wife Mary Jo Piwetz will establish a $50,000 endowed scholarship for chemical engineering students at the UH Cullen College of Engineering in 2017.  This endowment follows a similar one established this year for the College of Technology Construction Management Program.

The Piwetz’s ties to the University of Houston run deep.  Mike’s father, Florian W. Piwetz, graduated from the UH Cullen College of Engineering in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. Florian married his wife Effie during his undergraduate education at UH, and was the first in his family to earn a college degree. 

Mike and Mary Jo met at the University in 1969, when Mike was pursuing his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the Cullen College and Mary Jo was pursuing her undergraduate studies in special education. Three years later, the couple married on campus at the University Chapel.

Much like his father before him, Mike said that he and Mary Jo pursued their college courses with very limited funds. Mike and Mary Jo said they were inspired to establish their endowed scholarship to help ease the financial burden of current UH Engineering students. Moreover, the couple said they were moved to support the University to honor the Piwetz family legacy at UH started by Florian.

“My engineering education led to a very satisfying career, and [with this scholarship] I want to help give other people that opportunity,” Mike said.

Mary Jo added that the University has played a big part in their lives and has contributed to them being where they are today.

“We feel blessed to be able to contribute in this way,” she said.

Upon graduation from the Cullen College, Mike began an extensive career with the global engineering construction company Fluor. He remained actively involved with UH throughout his career, playing a major role in the development of academic programs at both the Cullen College of Engineering and the College of Technology.

Over the years, Mike has served on the Chemical Engineering Industry Advisory Board (IAB) and the Engineering Leadership Board at the Cullen College, as well as on the IAB for the College of Technology. He also served as Fluor’s executive sponsor to UH, responsible for the administration of grants to the University, and was the chairman of the committee responsible for fundraising over $10 million for UH’s Sugar Land expansion. 

Mike retired from Fluor in 2009 as the Vice President of Process Engineering, but remains dedicated to the future of engineering and construction careers through education. He said he recognizes that many UH students face unique challenges pursuing their education, especially students who work full time and attend classes simultaneously.

“It can be a struggle to work and go to college at the same time,” he said. “We want to help ensure these students’ success.”

To be eligible for the Piwetz Family Engineering Scholarship Endowment, students must major in chemical engineering, have a minimum GPA of 3.25 and be enrolled full-time in either junior or senior level courses. Students’ demonstrated leadership qualities will also be considered for this scholarship.

To view all of the endowed scholarships at the Cullen College, please visit Engineering Advancement online.

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