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Alumnus' Gift Propels Zucrow Labs Expansion at Purdue

A Purdue engineering alumnus and longtime university supporter hopes to inspire others with his gift to the School of Mechanical Engineering and the nation's largest university propulsion laboratory.

by Purdue University
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Stanley G. Tebbe stands in front of a tree on his ranch in Poteet, Texas. Photo providedStanley G. Tebbe's leadership gift, resulting in $1 million in contributions and secured commitments, will benefit the expansion of the Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories. Founded in 1948, the labs have evolved into a complex of six facilities on a 24-acre site west of campus where faculty and graduate students from the School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics perform a wide range of propulsion-related research in rockets, jet engines and other internal combustion engines.

The Tebbe TDI Laser Lab, focusing on gas turbine combustion research, will be the centerpiece of the new High-Pressure Advanced Diagnostic Laboratory Building. TDI stands for teamwork, discovery and innovation – three words that Tebbe says have guided him throughout his career and that he believes will guide the next generation of engineers.

"It's not just a bricks and mortar investment," Tebbe said. "This is an investment in people. Zucrow is all about advancing science, and I believe the investment will give Purdue a sustainable, competitive edge."

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Tebbe spent his career with ExxonMobil Corp., serving in numerous roles, including vice president of Paramins Additives (a division of ExxonMobil) and regional director of ExxonMobil Chemical Asia Pacific. He has been giving to Purdue for more than 35 years.

He graduated from Purdue with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and received his master's degree in industrial administration from the Krannert School of Management. Over the years, Tebbe has received numerous awards from Purdue, including the Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award in 1983, the Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Award in 1991 and the Krannert Distinguished Alumni Award in 1994.

Tebbe said he didn't know what an engineer was when he was a young boy working on his family farm in Greensburg, Indiana. He had a curiosity, though, to discover how things worked. He recalled taking apart the kitchen toaster to see what was inside.

"My mother wasn't too happy. 'Next time,' she said, 'wait until something breaks before you take it apart,' " Tebbe said.

A high school teacher who fostered his interest in math and science, along with the mentorship of a friend's father, prompted Tebbe to pursue engineering. He received scholarships that together with high school/summer jobs made going to college possible. He gives back to his alma mater as a way to pay it forward for the opportunities that his Boilermaker education provided him. He said he was inspired to give this gift following a visit with researchers during a tour of Zucrow last fall.

"My father told me never to ask people to thank you. He said if you have the ability to do something, do it. Make the world a little bit better.  It's your job," Tebbe said. "I'm going against his rule this time, because I hope this gift will inspire other alumni to support Purdue and the College of Engineering. Purdue opened doors for me, and we need more bright, energetic minds to become problem-solvers." 

Tebbe's gift benefits the expansion of the College of Engineering, which is part of Purdue Moves, a range of initiatives introduced by President Mitch Daniels to broaden Purdue's global impact and enhance educational opportunities for students.

"Many of the world’s challenges can be best met through the field of engineering, and this gift comes at a critical time as Purdue forges the way in STEM leadership,” said Daniels, referring to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. “Mr. Tebbe's generosity will accelerate the College of Engineering’s strategic growth and help set the stage for expanding its transformational impact in research."

The $8.2 million Zucrow project will expand the largest university propulsion laboratory in the U.S. by adding 14,600 square feet through a new 9,600-square-foot building and approximately 5,000 square feet through the renovation of and addition to the existing High Pressure Laboratory.