Chancellor's Kummer Day Report

Read by Chancellor Mo Dehghani October 9, 2023, during the third annual Kummer Day event on the Missouri S&T campus.

Dear Fred and June,

I read this letter today as part of a tradition we began three years ago, at the very first Kummer Day. Every year, as we commemorate the anniversary of your gift, I present a report to our campus community on the impact of your gift on our university.

Under the direction of the Kummer Institute Foundation Board of Directors and the leadership of Dr. Steve Roberts, we are making great progress on your threefold mandate to elevate S&T, have broad STEM outreach and have economic impact.



First, we are working to elevate S&T through academic and research excellence.

Our third and newest college, the Kummer College of Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development, began its second year on July 1. Named in your honor, the Kummer College is a new kind of college for the 21st century. It is designed to prepare future tech-savvy entrepreneurs, innovators, inventors and business leaders.

The college has three founding departments: economics; business information and technology; and engineering management and systems engineering. On this foundation, we are building new programs and new approaches to learning that will enable our students to face the challenges of tomorrow.

Plans for a new Master of Business Innovation degree program — an MBI — are well underway, as are plans for a new Master of Science degree in Economics with an emphasis on energy economics. We are also developing new bachelor’s and master’s degrees in data sciences and a new Ph.D. in AI engineering. The AI program will work closely with one of our four Kummer Institute Centers of Excellence, which I will speak more about in a few minutes.

I’d like to extend my thanks to Dr. Susan Murray — a longtime S&T faculty member and former chair of psychological science — who served as acting dean to launch the Kummer College, and to Dr. Tim Faley, who currently serves as interim vice provost and dean of the college in addition to his duties as associate vice chancellor of innovation, entrepreneurship and commercialization.



Fred and June, your gift is also transforming research at S&T through grants for research innovation and teaching transformation. These come in the form of our “Ignition Grant” programs, which provide seed funding to support faculty in their quest for large, multidisciplinary grants from federal agencies.

Through the Kummer Institute, we have also committed matching funds to awarded federal grants and matching funds for pending federal grants. This support provides the extra incentive that will help elevate S&T to Carnegie R-1 Research University status, which is one of our North Star goals.



I am very pleased to report that, earlier this month, our third director of a Kummer Center of Excellence joined S&T. On October 1, Dr. Shelley Minteer became the founding director of the Kummer Institute Center for Resource Sustainability. Dr. Minteer joins us from the University of Utah, where she was the Dale and Susan Poulter Endowed Chair of Biological Chemistry.

She is a renowned expert in energy storage and conversion and the electrification of chemical manufacturing, a process known as electrosynthesis. Dr. Minteer is also a member of our chemistry faculty. She will be a tremendous leader in our resource sustainability initiatives and will bring important expertise to our efforts to develop resilient energy, water and materials use, especially in the area of critical minerals, which play a major role in developing renewable energy. Fred, you would be impressed with Dr. Minteer’s accomplishments.

Dr. Minteer joins two other center directors:

Dr. Richard Billo, who joined S&T from Notre Dame in January 2022 as director of the Kummer Institute Center for Advanced Manufacturing. Dr. Billo has already secured significant funding from federal agencies to further our efforts to solidify S&T’s position as a national leader in advanced manufacturing. Just last week, we were informed that Dr. Billo received a grant of nearly $5 million dollars from the U.S. Department of Defense to establish the Missouri Defense Manufacturing Consortium. We are in good company, as the other award winners for this grant include Cornell University, Penn State and the University of Michigan. Congratulations, Dr. Billo!

Dr. Donald Wunsch, who began in December 2022 as director of the Kummer Institute Center for Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems. Dr. Wunsch joined S&T in 1999 as the Mary K. Finley Missouri Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, then returned to S&T in this new role following his appointment with the National Science Foundation as a program director. We anticipate great results from the AI center as significant as those of the manufacturing center and have no doubt that Dr. Wunsch will deliver Kummer Institute Center level results soon as well.



Our mission to elevate S&T is also benefiting greatly from Kummer scholarship and fellowship programs, which are now in their third year. This fall, over 1,100 Kummer Vanguard Scholars are enrolled at S&T, and they are experiencing tremendous success thanks to this program and your generosity.

The program attracts and supports the best and brightest first-year students in STEM degree programs and is renewable for four years.

Fred, this program is much more than a scholarship program, however. Kummer Vanguard Scholars get involved in professional development programming in five areas: leadership, research, design and build, entrepreneurship, and social impact. They also benefit from the wisdom of alumni and other leaders in business, entrepreneurship and innovation, who speak regularly to these students.

This program is having a remarkable impact! 93% of our Kummer Vanguard Scholars return for their sophomore year, compared to a retention rate of 81% for students not in the program, and their first-year grade point average is 3.5, compared to 3.1 for students not in the program.

We are also in the third year of our fellowship program for Ph.D. students, called the Kummer Innovation and Entrepreneurship, or I&E, Doctoral Fellowship. The I&E Fellows program has brought in 45 Ph.D. students since its inception. Each of these students is focused on conducting research with a high potential for commercialization. Our goal is to grow that number each year so that we have up to 100 Kummer I&E Fellows on campus at any given time..

In addition to these scholars and fellows, Kummer Student Programs offers opportunities for all students.

Take for example, the annual Startup Challenge that is open to all students, both graduate and undergraduate, and in any major. In its second year, this program gives students experience working in a team, honing entrepreneurial skills and pitching a business idea.



In addition to the tremendous impact of your generosity on our students’ success, I would be remiss, Fred and June, if I did not also mention the impact of your gift on our hiring of outstanding faculty. Dr. Jay Park joined us in August as the Kummer Endowed Chair of Computer Science after serving as a program director at the National Science Foundation. Dr. Lijun Jiang also joined us this semester as the Kummer Endowed Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and is also part of our world-renowned Center for Electromagnetic Compatibility.

Your gift has also inspired other donors to give to this wonderful university. Last spring, Dr. Jim Stoffer, a Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, established a professorship in polymer chemistry in his home department. Dr. Stoffer’s gift was matched by funds from the Kummer Inspiration Program to establish this professorship.



We are also making great strides in the second part of the Kummer mandate: to establish broad STEM outreach. A little over two years ago, Courtney Jones joined S&T as the founding director of the Kummer Center for STEM Education. In that short time, Courtney and her team have extended STEM education far beyond the walls of this great university.

Courtney oversees the center’s engaging programming for students in grades K-12 and for teacher development. The team hosts after-school programs, free tutoring, community outreach events, teacher conferences and workshops, and research experiences for both teachers and students. Her team takes projects and experiments on the road in one of three new STEM mobiles. I know for a fact Fred that you would love this wonderful initiative that is now a fully functional program.

The center’s biggest yearly undertaking is our summer camps, where students experience the STEM fields in fun and meaningful ways.

Over the past two summers, we hosted over 1,600 pre-college students at our summer camps. Thanks to your generosity, we’ve provided Kummer scholarships so that 135 children from families with severe financial need were able to experience these invigorating camps. Additional organizations, including Boeing, NASA and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, have come forward to provide additional scholarships for 105 additional children.

We know that many of our alumni and current students first set foot on campus as summer campers and then return for their college degrees. Fred, I know that the summer program was one of your favorites: rest assured that this effective program will continue and, in fact, grow.

Over the past year, Courtney and her team also brought hundreds of K-12 students to campus through inspiring STEM programs including Expanding Your Horizons, National STEM Day, the FIRST Tech Challenge competition, May the Fourth Be With You, and other on-campus programs. The STEM Center also hosted workshops and conferences for statewide K-12 STEM teachers.



Last but certainly not least, our third goal is to ensure economic impact in our region and state. Your transformative gift is doing that in many ways.

Last week, for example, we held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the first building of our manufacturing technology and innovation campus across Interstate 44, north of the main S&T campus. How I wish you both could have been there to be a part of this event!

The first building – called the Missouri Protoplex – will serve as the research and development hub for manufacturers across the state. The Kummer Institute Foundation Board of Directors provided $30 million for the facility.

This significant commitment by the board of directors led to over $46 million in state support, and another $20 million in federal support for planning and construction, equipment, and workforce training. We anticipate significant additional funding from federal sources. The Protoplex will be open for business by November 2025, and already we have companies signed on to be a part of this facility and the Manufacture Missouri Ecosystem, or MME. The MME will connect small, medium-sized and large manufacturers throughout Missouri to our expert researchers and talented students. This includes our partner companies for the Missouri Defense Manufacturing Consortium, which I mentioned a few minutes ago.

Your gift has also been instrumental in our progress on the Arrival District and provides ongoing investment in capital projects, including the Innovation Lab, which will be ready to open next semester; the Welcome Center, which will open in March 2025; and our underground parking facility, which will open later this semester.

In addition, next summer we will expand and relocate the underpass that connects the main campus with our residence halls, Greek houses, the Protoplex, and the future advanced manufacturing and innovation campus to the west.

Support from the Kummer Institute has also provided matching funds for a new initiative called “Advancing STEM in Missouri.” This project has received state funding and consists of three projects: the renovation and expansion of the Engineering Research Laboratory to provide more lab space for hypersonics materials research; the renovation of Schrenk Hall East for our biological sciences classes and teaching labs, in support of our new efforts in biomedicine and biological engineering and sciences; and an expansion of our geothermal field in the main campus. These three projects all will be completed by April 2027.



As this letter attests, we are on the right trajectory in fulfilling your mandate.

Fred, you encouraged us a¬¬ll to think big, and you and June backed it up with the largest charitable gift in Missouri history, and the eighth-largest gift to any public university in the nation. You have significantly raised our sights and our supporters’ confidence in our future.

You have demonstrated that philanthropy is not a destination but a journey along which every donor takes notice and remembers the kind acts of others and acknowledges their appreciation.

The Kummer Institute that your generosity created has an unlimited potential to impact lives for the better through STEM outreach and education. And that inspiration will also remain the responsibility of all of us who serve here.

Finally, Fred and June, on behalf of the Kummer Institute Foundation board, Kummer Institute staff, Kummer Vanguard Scholars, the I&E Doctoral Fellows, our endowed chairs and professors, and the greater community of Rolla and the region, I say that we are proud to continue the great work of the institute in your name. What you have done has been noticed and has drawn applause from every member of our community and far beyond.

We therefore continue to remain grateful, Fred, that you and June decided, based on your own personal experience, that this institution’s mission is worthy of your support.

You have made a tremendous difference and we look forward to fulfilling your wishes in perpetuity in accordance with your mandate to elevate Missouri S&T, have broad STEM outreach and have economic impact.



Mo Dehghani
Missouri S&T Chancellor