A ‘Soft Spot’ to Strengthen UK’s Future

Female student studying

A passionate innovator, University of Kentucky alumnus S.J. "Sam" Whalen is recognized as a pioneer in brazing (a metal-joining process akin to welding), welding and non-destructive testing (techniques to evaluate the properties of a material, component or system without causing damage). He founded the Aerobraze Corporation, which specialized in the fabrication of jet-engine components.

After serving in the United States Army Air Force during World War II, Sam enrolled at the University of Kentucky where he received a Bachelor of Science in Metallurgical Engineering in 1949. He then went on to pursue a master's degree at Ohio State University.

Sam attributed his accomplishments to his University of Kentucky education. UK gave him the foundation to think critically and to explore new educational and career opportunities.

"I have a soft spot in my heart for this university and want to help it in any way I can," is what Sam would always say when talking about his alma mater. Through estate planning, Sam fulfilled his desire to help the university and its students.

Sam established the Whalen Graduate Fellowship Fund in support of the College of Engineering to award fellowships to students pursuing a graduate degree in Metallurgical Engineering, which is now known as Chemical and Materials Engineering.

Today, this fund has provided support for a major renovation of the Materials Science and Engineering Undergraduate lab and purchasing of new equipment for the lab. It has also allowed for the hiring of additional faculty and TAs to support the 160 FPAT undergraduate student space.

Supporting students is especially critical right now. The average engineering student has $9,473 in unmet need—the amount the student owes after federal, state and institutional aid, scholarships and grants are applied. Though more than 70% of UK engineering students complete an internship or co-op during school and nearly 75% secure employment immediately after graduation, many graduate with significant student debt.

To leave a broader legacy, Sam created a Chemical and Materials Engineering Gift, which is funded, in part, by proceeds from his charitable remainder trust. After providing lifetime income and tax advantages to Sam and his wife, Sam's charitable remainder trust has strengthened, and will continue to strengthen, the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering and extend Sam's philanthropic legacy to generations of students following in his footsteps at his alma mater.

To acknowledge his support, the Materials and Science building located on campus, which houses chemical and materials research laboratories, was named in his honor.

"Gifts like Mr. Whalen's significantly impact our ability to improve the quality of our student experience," explains Thomas Dziubla, Chemical Engineering department chair. "It enables the department to expand its research mission and secure modern lab equipment."

A charitable remainder trust is but one of several gift instruments available to UK friends and alumni. The Office of Gift Estate and Planning is available to discuss these philanthropic opportunities. Start planning your UK legacy. Contact Gift and Estate Planning at (859) 257-7886 or giftandestate@uky.edu.

Related Stories

  • Memorial Gift Honors Alumna, Benefits…

    By Molly Williamson A true outpouring of human support — that is how Sen. Reggie Thomas described the treatment…
  • UK College of Law Graduate Makes Historic…

    By Jay Blanton Growing up in Lexington, J. David Rosenberg learned about the power of education to transform…
  • UK, Louisville Partner for Progress in…

    By Jay Blanton The state’s largest city has large aspirations for the future: at least 40,000 more residents…