New William and Nancy Mendenhall Travel Endowment established at UAF

UAF College of Engineering and Mines Dean Doug Goering announced today the new William and Nancy Mendenhall CEM Student Travel Endowment fund created by the Mendenhalls for the purpose of providing travel support to engineering students participating in professional development activities. Examples include engineering student competitions, conference presentations, and workshops. It is named after both William and Nancy Mendenhall to recognize their significant contributions to the university.

This new endowment complements the newly established William W. Mendenhall Civil Engineering Scholarship, established by the ‘Friends of Bill Mendenhall’ to honor him for his decades of service to the university and countless engineering students learning under his guidance.

Both of these new funds exemplify what it means to ‘pay it forward’, both in the case of the Mendenhall Civil Engineering scholarship funded by so many individuals who wanted to pay honor to Bill for his service, as well as the new travel endowment funded entirely by Bill and Nancy Mendenhall. UAF recently named a room in the Duckering Building after Bill Mendenhall, and Bill received the 2014 UAF Meritorious Service Award at the UAF commencement ceremonies in May.

Mendenhalls 1991
Photo above: The Mendenhalls in 1991. Photo courtesy of Nancy and Bill Mendenhall.

Many relationships have been formed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks over the years, and the Mendenhall’s journey is no exception. Nancy Harvey met Bill on the University of Alaska campus in May of 1953 - on a blind date! They married in 1954, and celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this year. Nancy was awarded the Marion Francis Boswell Award in 1953, the year she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. This award was established in 1934 to honor a woman who has balanced her college education with extracurricular activities, character, and personality. This award also recognizes an individual who inspires other undergraduates to conduct themselves as responsible individuals.

This union produced three children, Jim, Bill and Susan, all of whom have college degrees. Jim (BS Civil Engineering ’79) and Bill (BS Civil Engineering ’81) both pursued their father’s course of studies in engineering at UAF, and Susan graduated from Cornell Law School (’81). Nancy has been by Bill’s side, supporting Bill and her family throughout the years, and this new endowment honors her as well for her generous commitment to the university.

During World War II Prof. Mendenhall spent 3-1/2 years in the Army Air Corps as a weather officer and photo-intelligence officer. He received his B.C.E. from Cornell in 1949 and later, the M.S. in Civil Engineering in 1960, also from Cornell. He began his long career as faculty at the University of Alaska in 1955, teaching engineering and surveying classes, and officially "retiring" from full-time teaching in 1987, and teaching part-time through 2005. Prof. Mendenhall became registered in the State of Alaska as a Civil Engineer in 1954, a Land Surveyor in 1957, and as a Mechanical Engineer in 1965.

He started local UAF chapters of Tau Beta Pi (TBP), the national engineering honor society, Phi Kappa Phi, a national interdisciplinary honor society, and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).  He continues to demonstrate his commitment to student success by serving as the chief faculty advisor to TBP, a role he has filled since 1975. In 2000 he received the auspicious National Outstanding Advisor Award in recognition of his outstanding service.  He also belongs to Chi Epsilon, the civil engineering honor society, and Sigma Xi, the national honor society for scientific research.

Prof. Mendenhall’s commitment to learning and service extends beyond the UAF campus.  His career as a professional engineer demonstrates the love of life-long learning and professionalism.  As an accomplished pilot, Prof. Mendenhall conducted aerial mapping surveys throughout the state of Alaska.  He developed more accurate mapping procedures for high latitudes, receiving the Wild Heerbrugg Award in 1961 for research in photogrammetry.  He taught about fifteen short courses at the annual Alaska Surveying and Mapping Convention, and was inducted into the Surveying and Mapping Hall of Fame in 1996.  Prof. Mendenhall’s considerable service to teaching and to the surveying community was recognized during the restoration of the BLM Initial Point on Birch Hill, which was dedicated to William Mendenhall for his efforts in education.

Professor Mendenhall is a member of many professional societies, including the American Society of Civil Engineers, the National Society of Professional Engineers, the Alaska Society of Professional Land Surveyors, and the Alaska Board of Registration for Architects, Engineers, and Land Surveyors.  Over the years, he has served as the president of many of these societies, and was named Fairbanks Engineer of the Year in 1986.

Both Bill and Nancy have dedicated decades of service to the university, and they continue to give back now in the form of a substantial endowment to provide a legacy of support for generations to come.