Since our beginning, the College of Engineering has focused on impact—true to the principles of the Wisconsin Idea. As a key college of the state’s flagship university, we have a responsibility both to the citizens of Wisconsin, and those beyond. With a longstanding tradition of world-renowned research programs, academic excellence, and a knack for innovation, our college has been home to an endless array of breakthrough ideas that have positively altered the course of society forever.
From astronauts to executives to professional engineers, alumni are among the driving forces of our impact, taking what they learned in our classrooms and labs and applying it in world-changing ways. As the university celebrates its demisemiseptcenntial, the College of Engineering celebrates the contributions of our tens of thousands of alumni across time and around our globe. Here, however, is a short list of people whose contributions are exceptionally notable. From the 1800s until now, our alumni have been on the forefront of innovation and discovery. In fact, they’ve always been engineering the future.
John Bardeen—BSEE ’28, MSEE ’29Inventor of the transistor; major advances in superconductivity. Nobel Prize in physics, 1956 and 1972.
Jack St. Clair Kilby—MSEE ’50Co-inventor of the integrated circuit; Nobel Prize in physics, 2000.
Rob Engelke—BSEE ’68CEO, Ultratec Inc.; advances in deaf-communication technology.
Patrick Hanrahan—BSNE ’77Developed Pixar’s RenderMan animation software.
Michael Dhuey—BSEE ’80Co-inventor of the Macintosh II and the iPod.
Edward Schildhauer—BSEE 1897Chief electrical and mechanical engineer on the Panama Canal project (opened on Aug. 15, 1914).
John L. Savage—BSCE 1903Dam engineer: Engineer of many dams, including Hoover Dam; member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Oscar Boldt—BSCEE ’48Chairman, The Boldt Company.
David H. Geiger—BSCEE ’60Designer of domed stadiums.
William S. Harley—BSME 1907Founder, Harley-Davidson.
Charles Lindbergh—BSME 1920-21xAviation pioneer and innovator; made the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
Richard V. Rhode—BSME ’25Awarded Wright Brothers Medal for aerodynamic loading research, NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement.
James Lovell—BS 1946-48xApollo 8 and Apollo 13 astronaut.
Brewster Shaw—BSEMA ’68, MSEMA ’69Space Shuttle astronaut.
Adam Steltzner—PhDEP ’99Chief engineer and development manager for the Mars rover Curiosity.
Thelma Estrin—PhDEE ’52Professor of computer science, UCLA; first female president of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society; tireless advocate for women in STEM, well before modern efforts
Mathukumalli Vidyasagar—BS, MS, PhDEE ’69 (Earned PhD at age 21)Founded Department of Bioengineering in 2010 at the University of Texas, Dallas.
Randy L. Jirtle—BSNE ’70Epigenetics and genomic imprinting pioneer; senior scientist, McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, UW-Madison; professor of epigenetics, Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Bedfordshire, UK; Time magazine Person of the Year, 2007.
Michael Amiridis—PhDChE ’91Chancellor, University of Illinois at Chicago (2015-).
Emily Hahn—BSMiningEngr ’26First female UW-Madison engineering graduate; journalist; author of 52 books.
William Marr—PhDNE ’69Nuclear engineer, (Argonne); poet; artist.
Arthur Nielsen Sr.—BSECE ’18Founded the ACNielsen Co. (market research, Nielsen ratings) in 1923; elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971 and appointed a Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog in 1961 by Denmark.
Philip D. Reed—BSEE ’21President, General Electric (1937-1942, 1945-1958).
William Beverly Murphy—BSChE ’28CEO, Campbell Soup Co. (1953-1972).
David Grainger—BSEE ’50President, The Grainger Foundation.
Claude Rockwood Whitney Jr.—BSEE ’50Chairman and CEO, Allen Bradley Co.
Ken Wright—BSCEE ’51, MSCEE ’57CEO, Wright Water Engineers; co-founder, Wright Paleohydrological Institute.
Ernest Micek—BSChE ’59CEO, Cargill Corp. (1995-1999).
Richard Wilkey—BSMetE ’59Founder, president and CEO, Fisher Barton Inc.
Lee Raymond—BSChE ’60CEO, ExxonMobil (1999-2005).
Duane Collins—BSME ’61Chairman, Parker Hannifin Corp.
Mary Baker—BSEMA ’66President, ATA Engineering Inc.
Kenneth Schroeder—BSEE ’67CEO, KLA-Tencor (1999-2005).
Dong-Soo Hur—BSChE ’68, PhDChE ’69Chairman, GS Caltex Corp., Seoul, Korea.
Keith Nosbusch—BSEE ’74CEO, Rockwell Automation (2004-).
Michael Splinter—BSEE ’72, MSEE ’74CEO, Applied Materials (2003-2015).
Jeff Sprecher—ChE ’78Founder, NEA Ventures; founder, chair and CEO, IntercontinentalExchange, which purchased the New York Stock Exchange.
Valarie King-Bailey—BSCEE ’82CEO, Onshore Technology Group.
Thomas Werner—BSIE ’82CEO, SunPower Corp.
Winslow Sargeant—PhDECE ’95Chief Counsel for Advocacy, U.S. Small Business Administration; co-founder, AANetcom.
Learn about our Early-Career and Distinguished Achievement Awards program here.