UC engineering building named Mantei Center after professor who put ‘students first’

$25 million gift from former student honors Thomas Mantei

The University of Cincinnati has named a campus building after a professor who lives by a philosophy of “students first.” The Engineering Research Center, designed by Michael Graves, was rededicated today as the Mantei Center. 

The new Mantei Center honors Emeritus Professor Thomas D. Mantei of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, an award-winning teacher, department chair, researcher and mentor to generations of students.

Dr. Tom Mantei, University of Cincinnati Professor Emeritus, and his wife Anne Chasser at their Cincinnati home. Photograph copyright by Michael E. Keating 2021

The new Mantei Center honors Emeritus Professor Thomas D. Mantei of the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

The renaming of one of UC’s signature buildings was inspired by a $25 million gift to the university by Jim Goetz, a former Mantei student.

Goetz arrived at UC in 1984 a self-described “scattered and ill-prepared freshman.”

“Dr. Mantei was a critical mentor in my life. He advocated for me, helped me believe in myself, and helped me realize my potential,” Goetz said. “I remain in his debt.”

“Tom created a legendary environment to grow that blended work experience, outstanding classroom teaching and selfless office hours.”

During those open-door office hours, Mantei became a mentor — or “consigliere,” Goetz said — challenging his intellect, delivering much-needed life feedback, connecting him to scholarships and valuable co-op experiences, and helping shape his value system. With Mantei’s encouragement and support, Goetz moved on to earn a graduate degree from Stanford University.

Today, Jim Goetz is a Partner at Menlo Park, California-based Sequoia Capital, where he has been both an entrepreneur and investor for 25 years. Goetz and his partners made historic early investments into category-defining technology companies, including Apple, Cisco, Google, Nvidia, Oracle and PayPal — and, more recently AirBnB, ByteDance, DoorDash, Github, Hubspot, Instagram, LinkedIn, Robinhood, ServiceNow, Snowflake, Square, Stripe, TikTok, Toutiao, Unity, WhatsApp, YouTube and Zoom. 

Dr. Mantei was a critical mentor in my life. He advocated for me, helped me believe in myself, and helped me realize my potential. I remain in his debt.

Jim Goetz, BSEE ’88, Partner, Sequoia Capital - Investor & Entrepreneur

“Tom has impacted the arc of so many students over his years at UC,” Goetz said. “Educators don’t get enough credit for the impact they have on shaping students outside the classroom.” 

Goetz’s gift will:

  • Expand Computer Science by adding outstanding faculty who are passionate about teaching and committed to curriculum development.
  • Provide opportunities for UC students in all colleges to be inspired through exposure to computing skills.
  • Promote entrepreneurial skills to engineering and computer science students in the College of Engineering and Applied Science.
  • Expand co-op offerings through the university that is the birthplace of co-op, and student access to co-ops at the world’s top companies.
  • Establish the Marian Spencer Scholars Program, providing awards to high-achieving students from Cincinnati Public School high schools. The students will form a living-learning community, housed together in Marian Spencer Hall.
  • Create two new scholarships in football and men’s basketball, named for Travis and Jason Kelce and Kenyon Martin, UC athletes who have achieved significant success as professional athletes.

“Having a building named after an outstanding faculty member is a remarkable moment in our history,” said President Neville G. Pinto. “This gift is a testament to the power of mentoring and a wonderful example of the meaningful interactions that occur between faculty and students across our campus every day. Working with Jim on this transformational gift to honor Dr. Mantei has been one of the highlights of my career.”

John Weidner, Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, said: “The Mantei Center will be a constant reminder that faculty-student interaction is at the core of what we do. Professor Mantei has led by example, showing both young and senior faculty that the faculty-student bond has an enormous impact.”

Jim Goetz (man) wearing checked shirt.

Jim Goetz is a Partner at Menlo Park, California-based Sequoia Capital, where he has been both an entrepreneur and investor for 25 years.

Mantei joined UC in 1981, and has been recognized as an outstanding teacher many times. He was the 2009 recipient of the Mrs. A.B. “Dolly” Cohen Award for excellence in teaching, the premier teaching award at UC.

Mantei served as Department Head for what is now the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and directed the Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at UC. He holds patents in the field of plasma technology.

His incredible mentorship impact extends to one of Mantei’s former undergraduate students, current UC engineering professor Jason Heikenfeld. Inspired by Mantei’s teaching, Heikenfeld became a top STEM educator at UC, and is internationally known as a prolific inventor, entrepreneur and researcher.

“Tom feels a sense of responsibility for others and for society and for the planet that goes well beyond his own self-interest,” Heikenfeld said. “I think that’s why he’s ignited such strong relationships with his students. There’s a sense of trust and rapport that just comes together because you recognize you’re talking to someone with powerful empathy and caring for others.”

In 2010, Goetz anonymously created the Mantei/Mae Award, a scholarship program that supports high-achieving students in the Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering and Computer Science programs. More than 100 students have benefited from the scholarship and career support provided by the award.

“It’s quite an honor to be acknowledged this way,” Mantei said. “More importantly, the donor’s gift will help many students across the university, and can serve as an example of giving forward to help others.”

Feature image at top: The new Mantei Center honors Emeritus Professor Thomas D. Mantei. Photo/UC Foundation.

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