Former UPS executive endows chair in electrical engineering
MILWAUKEE — An alumni couple has donated $5 million to the Marquette University College of Engineering to establish an endowed chair in electrical engineering, Opus Dean of Engineering Robert Bishop announced Monday.
V. Clayton and Beverly Lafferty, who now live in Minneapolis, are 1950 graduates of the university’s College of Engineering and College of Arts and Sciences, respectively. Clay Lafferty, 85, grew up in Iowa and spent much of his professional career as the head of research and development at United Parcel Service. He holds several patents and created the hub system used to support the company’s package delivery and logistics business. He also developed the prototype for the smart pad used by the company for tracking and delivery confirmation.
Although raised on the east coast, three of the Lafferty’s six children attended Marquette; a grandchild also graduated from Marquette. “We’re proud of our Marquette educations,” Mrs. Lafferty said. “When we were able to begin contributing financially, we agreed education was one priority.” She said the gifts honor their parents who “didn’t have much money but put a great deal of emphasis on education.”
Bishop said the couple’s generosity extended to all aspects of the college’s transformation, including endowing the Lafferty Professorship in Engineering and the Elizabeth and Ray Lafferty Scholarship Fund, named in honor of Clay Lafferty’s parents. They also contributed to the building fund for the college’s new Engineering Hall, a $50 million, 115,000-square-foot facility that opened for student usage in August. The formal opening celebration for Engineering Hall, which is the first part of a $100 million project, will be Friday, Oct. 7. The Micro Sensors Research Laboratory will be named in honor of the Laffertys.
“Clay and Beverly Lafferty are benefactors who understand the full scope of the college’s mission — research, a strong faculty, student support and a facility that encourages innovation and learning,” said Bishop. “Their gifts touch every facet of the college.”
Bishop said a search for the Lafferty Chair in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is already underway, with a focus on “a scholar and educator with an international reputation” and expertise in smart sensor systems. “Strengthening our already-strong research capacity in smart sensor systems will have a significant impact on a broad range of practical applications that are already subjects of research in Marquette’s College of Engineering, including homeland security, healthcare, the environment and transportation,” he said. “Sensors are critical for detecting toxic agents in water, monitoring the safety of infrastructures, measuring the efficacy of implantable monitoring devices, and tracking pollution, among so many other things.”
The Lafferty gift will enable the chair to hire research and teaching assistants, fund laboratory expenses, and support curriculum development, according to Bishop.