Aerial view of the College of St. Thomas campus, ca. 1985.

Standing on the Shoulders of Visionaries

The School of Engineering owes its success today to the innovative founders. Learn about the individuals who contributed to the longevity and strength of the school.

Stephen Nachtsheim

While still an undergraduate, Stephen Nachtsheim helped design and propose the Quantitative Methods and Computer Science (QMCS) program at St. Thomas – the first computer science major at a Minnesota liberal arts college. After his graduation in 1967, Nachtsheim served for six years as St. Thomas’ director of campus computing – even while teaching courses in this new major. His background in database management later led to a distinguished career at Intel. Nachtsheim became a member of the St. Thomas Board of Trustees in 2002 and was recognized with the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2009.

Bernice Folz

Bernice Folz joined the St. Thomas QMCS faculty in 1978 after a successful career working for IBM and Unisys and teaching at several colleges and universities. She developed the curriculum for the Graduate Programs in Software in 1984 in consultation with industry professionals. The program stressed managerial and technical skills. When the program opened in 1985, it was one of only four of its kind in the nation. Upon her retirement in 2003, Folz received the university’s Distinguished Service Award, which recognized her contributions to building the program to its stature today as a top leading graduate data science and software program.

Fred Zimmerman

Fred Zimmerman joined the St. Thomas faculty in 1985 to establish and direct the Graduate Programs in Manufacturing Systems Engineering. Building on his experience in executive leadership for companies such as IBM, Control Data, National Computer Systems and Computool, Zimmerman designed a program to supply a comprehensive view of manufacturing to students without an undergraduate engineering degree. He was recognized with the university’s Distinguished Service Award in 2005 as an “outspoken and untiring advocate for the need to revitalize industry” in the U.S.

John Povolny

A 1947 graduate of the College of St. Thomas, John Povolny retired from a 38-year career at 3M in 1986 after rising to the level of divisional vice president. Immediately after his retirement, Povolny became a consultant for the new Manufacturing Systems Engineering master’s program at St. Thomas. Over the next 30 years, Povolny served on the School of Engineering faculty at St. Thomas in many roles from coordinator for the MSE program’s satellite campus in Hutchinson, Minnesota, to the associate director of graduate engineering. Until recent years, he was also a member of the School of Engineering’s Board of Governors.

This story is featured in the spring 2023 issue of St. Thomas Engineer.

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