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Bow Ties and Beanies

Bow Ties and Beanies
When Tom Newman '64 was weighing acceptances to universities like MIT, RPI, UConn, and WPI, it was WPI's personal touch that welcomed him most. Fifty years after graduation, that same warmth is a driving force behind Newman's extensive alumni efforts.

Most recently, Newman and his wife, Bonnie, established the Tom and Bonnie Newman Endowed Scholarship for Entrepreneurship in WPI's School of Business to support students interested in entrepreneurship and innovation. The first scholarship will be awarded this academic year.

"What transcends the 50 years is the people-oriented culture," says Newman of WPI's appeal. "WPI focuses first on the people and cares about students in a number of ways." Quite simply, Newman enjoys giving back to the school that offered him so much. This spring, his efforts earned him the Herbert F. Taylor Award for Distinguished Service to WPI from the WPI Alumni Association.

Despite the enormous changes over the past five decades, Newman says the basic principles still ring true. "WPI is still a fairly small group of people with exciting paths ahead of them," he says.

As a new student, Newman's strong connections with his Theta Chi fraternity brothers and his classmates opened the tender spot WPI continues to hold in his heart. "If you pick up the phone and call someone from the Class of 1964, it takes about 20 seconds for that relationship to be rekindled no matter how well you knew them," says Newman. "The bonds of WPI people are pretty tight."

Those bonds give WPI a prominent place in Newman's life, much more so than Northeastern University, where he earned his engineering master's, or Babson College, where he earned his MBA. "The fraternity system was a nurturing system for me," he says, even laughingly recalling the bow ties, beanies, and name tags of Orientation. As house president for Theta Chi, he presided over 120 brothers whose close proximity and camaraderie, especially in pre-Campus Center days, forged friendships quickly. "I had no real authority, and it was like herding cats," he says of his presidency, "but it was a great leadership experience."

Always a steadfast supporter of WPI, Newman's alumni activities increased in recent years. He served as chair of his 50th reunion, and his team broke reunion fundraising records. During his five-year term as Alumni Association treasurer, he quadrupled the available budget from $70,000 to $300,000 and used the increase to support more student scholarships, he says. Most recently, Newman joined the Strategy Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the School of Business, which is tasked with integrating innovation and entrepreneurial studies throughout WPI's curriculum.

The new scholarship, says Newman, "reflects two personal influences near and dear to my heart" because each changed his life course.

"Scholarships were invaluable to me," he says. "I couldn't have gone to WPI without them." And his MBA studies "helped the puzzle pieces click," showing him how to use his knowledge to make a meaningful impact on what he was doing. Those early influences led him to a 37-year career at Teradyne where he served in a wide variety of management roles. He retired as vice president in 2009.

Newman says his motivation isn't any different from most alumni who work tirelessly for the university. "The desire to give back is common among people who do this," he says. "It's not just the affinity for the school, but a drive to do something about that affinity."

With all of WPI's achievements, it comes down to the students, and their passion resonates with him. As a sixth grader watching a science-class ham radio demonstration, Newman's world changed when he comprehended the power of technology benefiting humanity. "I literally decided that day to become an engineer, so I'd be able to achieve those benefits," he says.

Seeing the same drive in today's students thrills him, and he glimpses the potential they hold. Newman says he is especially looking forward to meeting recipients of the scholarship he and Bonnie are endowing. "You get to rub shoulders with kids who will change the world."

If you would like to learn about establishing your own philanthropic legacy at WPI through a planned gift, contact Donna Stock, executive director of leadership and planned giving, at 508-831-6073 or dstock@wpi.edu, or click here to learn more.
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