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students casting
August 10, 2018

Alumni Gary and Jeanne Gigante establish scholarship through Foundry Educational Foundation

Written By: Sam Million-Weaver

Good foundry workers are hard to find, which is why Gary (BSMetE ’78) and Jeanne Gigante (BSMetE ’77), established a scholarship through the Foundry Educational Foundation of Schaumberg, Illinois, in hopes of enticing more students to pursue potentially rewarding careers in metal casting.

 Gary Gigante
Gary Gigante

“It’s tough to get good talent,” says Gary Gigante, who retired from his position as president and CEO of Waupaca Foundry in 2016. “It’s not a glamour industry.”

Casting molten metal might not be glamorous, but the efforts of foundry workers are essential for making many everyday objects from frying pans to truck frames. The Gigantes intend for the new scholarship to draw more trainees toward metal casting.

Gary and Jeanne Gigante have fond memories of their undergraduate educations, especially the classes they took from Professors Carl Loper and Richard Heine. Both recall Loper’s seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm for teaching, even at 8 am. In fact, the couple first became acquainted during one of those early morning classes—Gary frequently borrowed Jeanne’s meticulously written notes.

“I found out later that he was copying my notes and handing them out to his friends so that they could skip class on Fridays,” says Jeanne.

She managed to forgive him, though, and the two have been happily married since 1979. Jeanne worked as a metallurgist for two years after graduation before deciding to focus her time on raising their children.

Looking back, Jeanne’s only regret is that she didn’t have the opportunity to do an internship when she was an undergraduate, nothing that few opportunities existed for women to obtain hands-on metalworking experience during the late 1970s.

Gary urges current students to jump at the chance for internship opportunities, emphasizing that nothing, not even a top-notch UW-Madison education, can substitute for real-world practice.

On-the-job growth was immensely valuable for Gary’s career, which is why he has some wisdom to pass on from his first employer for students as they weigh offers after graduation.

“When you interview, it’s not only about the money,” he says. “Go somewhere where you can learn something.”

The Gigantes chose to set up the scholarship through the Foundry Educational Foundation because they both received support from the organization during their undergraduate educations, and Gary was actively involved on the board of directors for several years.

The Foundry Educational Foundation has supported UW-Madison students in the past. Josh Mueller (BSMS&E ‘16) received the Donald Brunner Scholarship in 2015, an award that had gone to Jared Ottman (BSMS&E ‘15) the prior year, 2014. They also awarded Richard Frazer Scholarship to Greg Johnson (BSMS&E ‘16) in 2016.

The Gigantes’ scholarship provides $5,000 for students to defray educational expenses.