WPI Alumna Judy Nitsch Commits 7-Figure Gift To University
Monday, September 30, 2013
Nitsch, the founding principal and chair of the board of Nitsch Engineering Inc. in Boston, is acknowledged as one of WPI’s most dedicated volunteers and most generous supporters. In addition to this most recent commitment, the Nitsch/Magliozzi Green Roof atop East Residence Hall is named for her and her late husband, Tony Magliozzi, in recognition of their contribution to the construction of that facility. As a WPI trustee for 23 years—the first alumna trustee elected to the board—a member of the board’s Facilities and Campus Infrastructure Committee for her entire tenure, and chair of the committee for 16 years, Nitsch has brought her considerable expertise to bear on WPI’s facilities development over the last two decades.
Nitsch's passion for WPI
Nitsch was an early champion of energy efficient campus buildings. “I was pushing LEED certification on campus and no one was following me,” she says. “I knew in my heart of hearts it was the right thing to do.”
Jeffrey Solomon, WPI’s CFO and executive vice president, agrees. Her passion for sustainable energy spurred the building committee to adopt a policy for making all new campus construction energy efficient, he says. “I attribute all that to her.”
“Her passion for WPI is so tangible and visible in everything she does,” Solomon adds. “She is very thoughtful and she doesn’t just push her agenda forward. She wants what is best for this institution. I think she epitomizes the very best of what a Trustee should be and is a role model for others in terms of engagement and commitment.”
In recognition of their extraordinary commitment to WPI, and of Nitsch’s commitment to developing environmentally sustainable facilities at the university, the entrance to the new Sports and Recreation Center—which has earned Gold LEED certification—has been named the Judy Nitsch ’75 and Tony Magliozzi Entrance. The generosity of Nitsch and Magliozzi will be honored at a celebration dedicating the entrance on Friday, Sept. 27, during WPI’s Homecoming Weekend.
Blending steel + glass with grace
Of all the facilities on which Nitsch has worked at WPI, the Sports and Recreation Center is her special project, bringing to life her professional expertise and her passion for WPI by blending steel and glass with purpose and grace. The naming of the entrance, she says, is a fitting gesture.
“It makes me smile,” said Nitsch.
From the beginning, the center was professionally challenging. “The building has four fronts,” Nitsch says, “and they all had to be interesting, attractive, and appropriate for the size and scale.”
But the task was also conversation between Nitsch and her husband, an architect, who was her sounding board, listened to the details, and offered advice from an architect’s viewpoint, she says.
A trailblazer from the beginning
No one is surprised that Nitsch pushed to make it the best, according to WPI. From her early arrival on a campus that had only recently begun admitting women, Nitsch has always followed her own path, burnishing her reputation for excellence and balance.
“She was one of the trailblazers,” said Mike Dolan ’75, a WPI trustee and national chair of the fundraising campaign who worked closely with Nitsch on campus improvements. “She exemplifies that personal spirit of WPI,” he said.
As the second oldest of seven siblings in Southwick, Mass., Nitsch says, “I liked being a little bit different,” and notes that having five younger brothers made her comfortable with working with the opposite gender. An avid reader who loved science and math, she was her high school class valedictorian and knew her work style early on. “I always liked to work start-to-finish and see something accomplished,” she says.
Nitsch began at WPI as a math major because she didn’t know what an engineer did. Although she doesn’t recommend deciding on a major the way she did (“I ended up as a civil because I thought, ‘Well, I like designing house layouts,’”), Nitsch’s instincts were right. A summer job at a civil firm as an undergrad shaped her career and led her to found Nitsch Engineering in 1989. It is the largest women-owned business enterprise civil engineering firm in the state. She has served on countless professional organizations, boards, and committees, and was the first female president of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers Section of ASCE.
Opening doors for others
Not all of Nitsch’s contributions are tangible. Legions of WPI students, mostly women, count her as a thoughtful and active mentor. While Nitsch’s professional status is satisfying, it’s her work with students that pleases her most. “There were no women [mentors] for me when I was a student,” she says. “And I was the only woman engineer at two firms for my first eight years out of college.”
Those experiences drive her mentoring, adding a self-described responsibility to share her knowledge just because she can. “She would do anything to help a woman in a technical field,” says Amy Prange ’07, who was matched with Nitsch in WPI’s Trustee Mentor program and eventually worked for Nitsch Engineering. And Nitsch’s mentees absorb the idea that they have a responsibility to give back in some way – whether through time or talent.
Nakisa (Niki) Alborz, a civil engineering PhD candidate, calls Nitsch the perfect role model. “She is an example of what hard work and a great personality can accomplish,” she says. “Her drive and ambition are intoxicating. She makes you feel that the sky is the limit, and you can accomplish anything you want.”
Nitsch is well known in the WPI community for giving back in so many ways. She has been recognized by the WPI Alumni Association not only for her career accomplishments but also for her service to WPI, and she is one of only a handful of alumni who have received all four career and service awards from the association.
Nitsch’s colleagues are thrilled to see her receive recognition. “As one of the earliest female students and as the first alumna trustee, Judy has been opening doors to WPI students for over 35 years,” says longtime colleague Janet Richardson, a former vice president of student affairs at WPI. “It is fitting that the entry to the recreation center will be another door that Judy will be opening to all members of the WPI family for years to come.”