Texas Business reports: ARLINGTON—Professor Bob Woods recalls the day 25 years ago that he stopped by the A.E. Petsche Co. in search of high-tech wire for the vehicles his engineering students were designing through the UT Arlington formula racing program.
Company founder Arnold Petsche gladly filled Woods’ request from his Arlington business that would become a leading supplier of high-performance wire and cable for the aerospace industry.
That meeting launched an enduring friendship between Petsche, Woods and The University of Texas at Arlington Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering students who would benefit from Petsche’s support through the decades.
Now Petsche has made a new, $1 million commitment to the UT Arlington College of Engineering to establish the Arnold E. Petsche Center for Automotive Engineering pending UT System Board of Regents approval. His gift will double in value through the University’s Maverick Match program to create a $2 million endowment for the Center. The program leverages natural gas royalties to attract new philanthropic commitments.
The Center will promote engineering education, innovation and entrepreneurship, especially through student participation in the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers program, which Woods advises. Each year, participating students design an FSAE car from the tires up and then race their vehicles against collegiate teams across the country.
“We helped out,” Petsche said of that initial meeting with Woods. “But we found out UT Arlington engineering produces some great students. So we hired a couple of part-time employees from Bob’s program, then we began hiring full-time employees. It just mushroomed from there.”
UT Arlington president James D. Spaniolo said commitments from industry leaders like Mr. Petsche advance excellence in the University’s academic and research endeavors.
“Arnold Petsche’s generosity and his passion for innovation and entrepreneurship will have a lasting impact on our students for generations to come,” Spaniolo said. “It’s humbling to see his investment in their education and success, and we are deeply appreciative for his support.”
Such private support provides the margin of excellence for the UT Arlington College of Engineering, dean Jean-Pierre Bardet said.
“Arnold Petsche has long seen the value of our program in the way it teaches students to apply engineering know-how and develops their entrepreneurial spirit,” Bardet said. “His commitment will enable UT Arlington to take this already successful program to the next level.”
Part of the Petsche gift will be used to create a Hall of Honor in Woolf Hall to house FSAE trophies and display winning cars, some of which now hang in the Nedderman Hall atrium.
The new center will allow students to earn a new Certificate in Automotive Engineering and a Certificate in Engineering Entrepreneurship. It also will promote other automotive engineering initiatives, especially in cost-effective manufacturing of composites and other advanced materials.
Petsche, who holds a mechanical engineering degree, said the real-world knowledge that students gain through the UT Arlington FSAE program translated well at A.E. Petsche Co., a company he started in his garage and built into a multi-million dollar business before selling in 2009. He enhanced his education by attending the Harvard Business School Owner-President Management Program.
UT Arlington has staged annual FSAE rallies on the Arlington campus for the past 12 years. The competitions have attracted teams coming from Canada, Nebraska, California, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Florida as well as from other Texas universities. The UT Arlington team also travels to other events across the nation.