Joan Bolduc Szkutak, a WPI trustee and co-chair of the WPI Women’s Impact Network, and her husband Dave recently made a generous $1.2 million commitment to establish an endowed Global Project Center and continue to support the Women’s Impact Network.
Joan and Dave met between C and D Term of their junior year at Curly’s Pub, now the Sole Proprietor. They immediately hit it off and started dating, though Joan interned in Florida that summer and Dave interned in Boston. In their senior year they looked for jobs in the same city and both ended up in Cincinnati with Procter & Gamble after graduation. Joan spent over 33 years at Procter & Gamble in various leadership roles in R&D. While at P&G she also hired many WPI graduates. Dave left P&G after a few years and went to work for US Precision Lens, becoming President and CEO prior to his retirement.
During their 35 years in Cincinnati they were both engaged with many non-profit activities. Joan co-chaired the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way and was also on the Executive committee for Cancer Family Care for many years. Dave led the United Way Campaign for Clermont County and also served on the Greater Cincinnati United Way Board for over 10 years, including 4 years as Vice Chair of the Board.
After a few years of retirement Joan and Dave embarked on second careers as owners of SAMsARA
Winery in Santa Barbara, California. They both developed a passion for food and wine during their extensive international business travel. Having had the good fortune of visiting some or the world’s greatest winegrowing regions, they found themselves returning time and again to Santa Barbara County where a combination of diverse, site-specific wines, friendly people and a close proximity to the Pacific sparked their imagination. Today they guide SAMsARA as vintners and work closely with their winemaker, supporting his creative decisions in the vineyard and the cellar. You can learn more about their winery at www.samsarawine.com.
Both Dave and Joan were active on campus in sports and Greek life and they stayed connected with WPI over the years, even while living in the Midwest. They helped lead both their 20-year and 25-year reunion committees and recently helped their class have a very successful 40-year reunion. In 2015 they were IQP project advisors for the Melbourne Project Center and stay connected with the Bar Harbor Project Center which supports Acadia National Park, near their summer home on Mount Desert Island.
They credit WPI as a critical component of their career success. “The unique education we received at WPI—and the projects especially—really made a difference,” says Joan. Neither could have attended WPI without scholarships so they have always sought to give back to their alma mater to enable others to attend this great university.
Over the years, their philanthropy has supported the WPI Fund, student scholarships and financial aid, the Innovation Studio, and the Women’s Impact Network (WIN), which provides grants to students, faculty, staff, and alumni for projects, programs, and initiatives that advance women in STEM. The Szkutaks’ most recent gift supports the leadership phase of Beyond These Towers: The Campaign for WPI.
Q&A with Joan and David Szkutak
Why do you stay connected to WPI?
As we are both graduates of WPI and met there we have many fond memories of our time at WPI. Joan really enjoy the opportunity to be back on campus to attend events and trustee meetings. The campus has really transformed over the years with many new facilities, but the core of the campus feels the same. We both enjoyed the nostalgia of being on campus for our 40th reunion and to reconnect with many of our classmates.
What motivates you to give to WPI?
Giving back is easy as the school gave us both so much – we met there and we both received wonderful educations through the innovative WPI Plan that clearly impacted our career success. It meant so much to both of us to receive the scholarships to enable us to attend WPI that we want to ensure others can have the same experience.
What do you hope your gift will achieve for future generations at WPI?
To enable all students to attend the project center of their choice and experience the life-changing impact of off-campus IQPs. Classic STEM learning is a critical foundation for all students in engineering and science but the uniqueness of the project-based education at WPI truly sets it apart and allows students to grow by grappling with real world problems in IQP centers around the world. This helps them grow as individuals while also having a lasting impact on the communities the projects serve.