Couple's Gratitude Leads to Endowed Chair

Scott and Coleen Stevens.

"We feel a great sense of gratitude to the university. Our educations there made such a huge difference in our lives."

Helping students make a difference in the world

Scott and Coleen Stevens both graduated from UB in 1979, Scott in civil engineering and Coleen in physical therapy. They moved to New Orleans where Scott worked on a component of the space shuttle launch system and Coleen started her career in physical therapy. They married and decided the weather in New Orleans was not for them, so they moved back to the Albany, N.Y., area where they’d grown up. A few years later, Scott started a company that makes concrete-reinforcing steel and related materials.

The company, Dimension Fabricators, was a success. Scott established a reputation as a leader and an innovator in his industry. UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) invited him to join its Dean’s Advisory Council. (Coleen likes to joke that if the school had looked, they wouldn’t have found him on any dean’s list before then.)

Scott and Coleen’s generosity to SEAS has made a material difference, most recently with the gift of an endowment to support a chair in engineering sustainability in the department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering. And for the couple, their support has brought them the satisfaction of contributing to the education of students who can make a difference in the world. In Scott’s words, “It’s nice to know that you’ve done that.”

It’s Just the Right Thing to Do

“We feel a great sense of gratitude to the university,” Coleen says, “because our educations there made such a huge difference in our lives. We learned to communicate, we learned to problem solve, we learned who we were in the world and that shaped our lives to this very day.”

They hope that through their support for UB, new graduates will in turn enjoy the kind of success they’ve had. They believe strongly that education is key to a more vibrant, healthy, progressive society.

The Scott and Coleen Stevens Chair in Engineering Sustainability will focus on core areas including sustainability fundamentals, renewable energy, economics, environmental quality and engineering practice, ethics and manufacturing.

“This leans toward the sort of things we’re strong proponents of,” Scott says. In 2017 his company, which uses large amounts of energy to forge and shape metal, completed a $1.9 million rooftop solar array, large enough to offset much of the factory’s energy needs. “It’s just the right thing to do,” Scott told a local newspaper at the time. “We know the world is warming, and we need to burn less carbon fuels.” The Stevens’s house has its own solar array and both Coleen and Scott drive electric cars.

As members of the Boldly Buffalo campaign steering committee, Scott and Coleen are acting on the same qualities that brought them to UB. Scott came because UB offered a good value for a civil engineering education, Coleen because she was inspired by the physical therapy program’s reputation for competitiveness.

“It’s our time now,” Scott says. “It’s not our parents’ world anymore. It’s our world. We’ve had some success. It’s time to give back.”

And they have. Today, anyone spending time on the North Campus in good weather can sit down or stroll through the Scott and Coleen Stevens Courtyard in front of Davis Hall. In Bonner Hall, undergraduates gather in the Stevens Center, a multimedia-equipped collaborative meeting space.

And now, through their generosity, the Scott and Coleen Stevens Chair in Engineering Sustainability holder will be igniting ideas that might make an outsized difference to the planet one day, the largest gift anyone can give.

Published April 22, 2021