SUNY Poly receives record $1.9M donation

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MARCY — SUNY Polytechnic Institute announced Monday that its SUNY Poly Foundation will receive a total of $1.9 million from the late Francis A. Wilcox—the largest individual donor contributions in the institution’s history.

One gift of $1 million will support undergraduate student scholarships, and another gift of $900,000 will support the renovation of four electrical and computer engineering/engineering technology laboratories and the purchase of new, state-of-the-art equipment. 

The Francis A. Wilcox Scholarship will provide critical financial support to SUNY Poly students who demonstrate merit and/or financial need, especially, but not limited to, those enrolled in the College of Engineering, the SUNY Poly announcement said. The gift supporting the renovation of engineering laboratories with new, related resources will seek to provide the hundreds of students who take required and elective electrical engineering and engineering technology courses each year with a robust, advanced education that will translate their training into practical industry opportunities. 

In addition, the second floor of Kunsela Hall will be named the Francis A. Wilcox Engineering and Technology Wing, in memory of Wilcox who lived in the same East Utica neighborhood his entire life and desired to make an impactful mark on the lives of students. He graduated from St. Francis de Sales High School before earning his bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and master’s degree from Cornell University.

During World War II, he served in the Army Signal Corps in India and received the Good Conduct Medal, the Meritorious Unit Award, and the WWII Victory Medal. As an electrical engineer, Wilcox worked at General Electric in both Utica and Syracuse until his retirement when he volunteered at both the Utica Public Library and the Oneida County Historical Society. There, he spent time helping people from across the U.S. research genealogy and reconnect with family members.

Wilcox’s nephew, Kevin Keehle, with wife, Sue, realized the opportunities before them to make a powerful difference in the lives of SUNY Poly’s students when they visited the Utica campus and learned more about the institution’s top-tier engineering programs, the announcement added.

“My uncle saved and invested nearly every penny he earned as an electrical engineer, amassing a small fortune,” said Kevin Keehle, who received his bachelor’s degree in business and public management from the institution in 1992. “He had hoped to help universities and colleges in many ways. After visiting the SUNY Poly Utica campus, my wife, Sue, and I saw an awesome opportunity to help others by giving these gifts. It makes perfect sense and links his past with not only SUNY Poly’s future, but the city of Utica’s future as well. My family is honored he can be a part of both.” 

“SUNY Poly is profoundly grateful to Mr. Wilcox and Kevin and Sue Keehle for their transformative commitment that will allow SUNY Poly to provide inspiring and uplifting scholarships as well as leading-edge engineering resources to students,” SUNY Poly Acting President Dr. Tod A. Laursen said. “We are thrilled to receive these generous donations which will not only allow current and future students to gain a world-class experiential engineering education, but also remind all of us how one person can make such a powerful impact in the lives of so many. I look forward to walking through the Francis A. Wilcox Engineering and Technology Wing and seeing exciting projects take shape, and I hope that others may see these gifts and be inspired to build on the generosity of Mr. Wilcox and his family.”

“On behalf of the SUNY Poly Foundation, we are truly appreciative of this most generous support of our institution and students by Mr. Wilcox and his family,” said Stephen Teti, SUNY Poly Foundation Board Chair. “These investments enhance our engineering programs, foster exciting student experiences, and provide first-hand knowledge of the latest engineering equipment to underpin alumni success in our fast-changing world.”

The $1 million gift from Wilcox and the Keehles to the SUNY Poly Foundation establishing the Francis A. Wilcox Scholarship will be dedicated to defraying the costs for qualifying students to attend SUNY Poly, helping to make an education at SUNY Poly even more affordable while providing students with the resources they need to achieve academic—and later—career success.

The transformation of Kunsela Hall’s “Francis A. Wilcox Engineering and Technology Wing,” is expected to take approximately 18 months, with renovations and equipment that will create, update, and/or augment: The Electronic Systems and Circuits Laboratory, with equipment supporting experiential learning in foundational coursework; The Digital Laboratory, with equipment and an expansion of capabilities related to vehicular systems and energy storage; along with An expansion and update of the Communications Laboratory to include the Internet of Things (IoT), wireless 5G and software defined radio resources; and An update to the Senior Capstone Project Laboratory to include a variety of engineering equipment as well as capabilities for conferencing and team meetings.

This largest individual personal gift helped drive SUNY Poly Foundation’s record-setting fundraising efforts this fiscal year—the most support received since the Foundation’s inception in 1974. Total contributions for fiscal year 2020-2021 are expected to have increased more than $1 million, a record number, in large part due to the generosity of Mr. Wilcox and Kevin and Sue Keehle.

“These are historic gifts to SUNY Poly, and we thank Mr. Wilcox and the Keehles for their generosity,” said RoAnn Destito, SUNY Poly College Council chair. “The gifts set the stage for exciting renovations and updates to create world-class engineering laboratories and resources, but they also set the bar for providing students with the most affordable education and advanced skills possible, opening up a lifetime of career opportunities right here in the Mohawk Valley and beyond.”

SUNY Poly College of Engineering Interim Dean Dr. Michael Carpenter said, “It was a great pleasure to learn about Mr. Wilcox and his extensive history in the Mohawk Valley from Kevin and Sue Keehle. Likewise, with that history in mind, it was a terrific occasion with Kevin and Sue when we shared the vision of SUNY Poly’s College of Engineering and its continued path toward providing an impact and serving as a resource for the Mohawk Valley and New York State. We are extremely grateful for the Wilcox family’s generosity and commitment in enabling SUNY Poly to realize these objectives.” 

To learn more about SUNY Poly’s fundraising efforts and to pledge your support, visit www.sunypoly.edu/foundation. 

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