By Robyn Murray
Trustees Envision a Strong Engineering Future for Nebraska
When Janine and Kevin McArdle tell people where they’re from, they usually hear some or all of these words in response: football, Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne.
And while the Nebraska natives and University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumni cherish their Saturdays in the fall as much as any Nebraska fan, they have a different vision for the Cornhusker State.
“If I had a perfect world, we’d be as well known for our engineering program as we are for football,” said Kevin.
The McArdles, who have lived outside of Nebraska for about 30 years, both graduated with Bachelor of Science degrees in engineering from UNL and went on to highly successful careers in the energy industry. Janine is the founder and CEO of Apex Strategies, a global energy consultancy firm, and was recognized in 2014 as one of the 50 most powerful women in the oil and gas industry. She said her experience at UNL provided the foundation for her career.
“It prepared me quite well for going into business in a man’s world,” she said. “You started getting that sense of how to speak up for yourself and stand for what you thought was right.”
Kevin studied construction management at UNL and eventually took over his family’s construction business. He said the combination of business and construction management classes he took at UNL prepared him for a career that incorporated both elements.
“It allowed me to see multiple aspects of projects,” Kevin said, “from top to bottom and from the economic side. Going back into my family’s business, it just was a perfect evolution for me.”
The McArdles, who are University of Nebraska Foundation Trustees, are strong supporters of the College of Engineering, which has undergone a massive expansion in recent years. They provided capital and programmatic support as the college embarked on a multistage construction project that included the Engineering Research Center, an 87,000-square-foot building that replaced an aging structure known as the Link; the Scott Engineering Center, which is being renovated to provide research and lab space; and Kiewit Hall, which is slated to open for classes in spring 2024. In total, the $190 million development represents the largest academic facilities project in university history.
The College of Engineering transformation aligns with the college’s commitment to preparing students for the rapidly expanding and ever-changing future of engineering.
“It’s this idea of the ‘complete engineer,’” said Janine. “It’s really about making the engineer more than just an engineer. I think it’s a really good program, and very unique and different. You can go to a lot of great universities, but you’re not going to find that program, and that, to me, makes a big difference.”
Janine said today’s graduates will face engineering challenges that are far more complex than in years past, especially considering the daily advances in technology and artificial intelligence.
“The engineering industry is rapidly expanding and growing,” she said. “What we thought was challenging, you know, to put in a high-pressure pipeline over a mountain range, it’s going to be nothing compared to what they’ll be doing in the future. So, I think it’s pretty exciting.”
The McArdles are so excited for the future at the College of Engineering that they decided to assume a more public role in their philanthropy and as trustees. They recently co-hosted trustee events in Scottsdale, Arizona, and have opened their Texas home for events. It’s a new role for them, but they are hopeful it can inspire others to support the university.
“Janine and I usually fly under the radar a little bit when it comes to philanthropy,” Kevin said. “But this was something that we felt was probably very influential for us to help with … if it spurs on just one other couple or one other individual to help promote the university and add to the enhancement of what they’re trying to accomplish.”
Preparing the next generation of engineers is personal to both Janine and Kevin. Their son is an aerospace engineer, and they have two nephews who graduated from the College of Engineering.
“If you can look back someday, and say we helped someone else follow their dream and their passion to become an engineer, that we made it easier for them to do that, then that’s all you can ask for in life,” said Janine, “to be able to give back and pass that baton.”