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Adjunct Professor Don Uzarski explains why he gave to the Modernization effort

By Donald R. Uzarski (BS 70, MS 80, PhD 91)
Adjunct Professor, RailTEC

Why did I give? Simple question, simple answer. It’s all about giving something back. I’ve had a great, rewarding and fun civil engineering career and it all began here at Illinois. As I look back 50+ years, when I first came to campus as a freshman, I was immature and uncertain about my future. While I wanted to be a civil engineer (I liked building things as a kid), I had little knowledge about what that really entailed. My CEE (just CE back then) courses were enlightening and most of my professors were inspiring and helpful. As such, I graduated with confidence, knowledge, and problem-solving skills ready to pursue my career. 

Don Uzarski
Don Uzarski

Over time, as I gained practical experience, I knew I made the correct career choice, but I also knew that I needed additional classroom knowledge to enhance my professional skills. Fortunately, after a few years while serving on active duty with the Navy Civil Engineer Corps, I was offered a year of postgraduate study (MSCE) at just about any school of my choice that would accept me. Without hesitation, I chose to come back to CEE at Illinois. However, I was deployed to the middle of the Indian Ocean at the time and the only available form of communication was traditional mail via the weekly mail plane. My adviser-to-be and longtime friend, Professor Moreland Herrin, was extremely helpful and got me back into the program. Once back, I found graduate school to be the perfect complement to my practical experience.  My critical thinking skills were greatly enhanced (not to mention my technical skills) and I could understand much better the actual practice of civil engineering. As it turned out, graduate school was such a positive experience for me that a few years later I came back for yet one more civil engineering degree, my Ph.D. 

After that, I was offered the opportunity to teach here at Illinois and I jumped at that. Throughout my career progression, I realized that I had a true passion for civil engineering. That passion has only grown over time. There is no doubt in my mind that CEE at Illinois has been most instrumental in fostering that passion, my personal and professional development and my career success. So, giving back to CEE at Illinois is something I gladly do.

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