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Chris & Spes Mekus

Chris and Spes Mekus

Chris Mekus

University of Cincinnati – A Gift of Education

When Spes and Chris Mekus attended UC in the late 1960’s-early 1970’s, they were fortunate that their parents could cover the cost of attending college to complete their degrees in Interior Design and Architecture, respectively.  They graduated debt free and ready to start their careers - and ultimately founded their own architectural/design practice. Today, many students are not quite so lucky, as the cost of college has risen considerably, and for many it is unaffordable without some form of financial aid or scholarship.

Many years after graduating, they were drawn back into involvement with the university through the UC Foundation and were introduced to some wonderful Chicago area alumni. They were impressed by the devotion and commitment of local UC Alumni Committee leaders who tirelessly support and promote UC, and work hard to re-connect Chicago area alumni to the University.

Through their involvement with the UC Foundation alumni committee, Spes and Chris also met new college deans as they took their positions. Among them were the deans of DAAP (Robert Probst) and Engineering (Carlo Montemagno). Both men are impressive, forward thinking leaders that are actively transforming the programs within their colleges to better educate and prepare students for professional careers, and at the same time striving to attract/retain top caliber faculty.

Chris and Spes Mekus

Spes Mekus

Why would DAAP grads support Engineering?

Although they have long supported the DAAP program through their employment of co-op students and UC graduates, they became intrigued and engaged with the engineering program when Dr. Carlo Montemagno, as the new dean of the College of Engineering & Applied Sciences, visited their Chicago offices to share his vision for transforming and strengthening the UC engineering program. Carlo’s overriding goal was to increase the number of undergraduate engineering students that graduate from UC with a degree in engineering, and to increase the ranking of the CEAS to one of the top programs in the US.

Spes and Chris were surprised to learn that despite the high demand for engineers globally, there had been a significant engineering student drop-out rate problem among U.S. universities. When Carlo accepted the position as Dean of CEAS, the national average of students graduating from U.S. engineering programs was only around 40-50%. All of these students had high GPA’s and SAT/ACT scores and were well qualified to complete the rigorous engineering curriculum. Many lost interest, however, and dropped out after their freshman year, particularly if they did poorly in engineering calculus. As a result, one of CEAS’s goals was to change the learning environment so that first and second year students make it through the first two years, particularly through first semester engineering calculus with a grade of C+ or better.  By engaging and helping students early, the graduation statistics improved significantly.

In recognition of Carlo’s efforts, Spes and Chris decided to do their part by making an annual scholarship commitment to UC’s engineering program with the hope it will give a promising student the chance to accomplish great things.

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