James Mayer ’77 Honors His Mother and His Alma Mater
There are as many reasons for giving as there are people who give. James Mayer has two reasons for his recent gift to establish the Louise F. Mayer Endowed Scholarship, and they’re both quite personal. The first is to honor his mother for being such a strong role model in his life; the second is to offer gratitude to his alma mater for setting him on the path to a long and rewarding career.
Mayer, the oldest of five siblings, understood from a young age how fervently his mother persevered in the face of adversity. She lived through the Great Depression, served as a nurse in World War II, and raised five children on her own; Louise F. Mayer is, by all accounts, an exceptional person. Faced with all the challenges a young, widowed mother of five might come up against, Louise ardently supported her children and strongly encouraged each of them to earn a college degree so they might enjoy enhanced opportunities in life. He says of his mother, “I didn’t realize at the time how hard that must have been for her—probably because she never made it seem difficult.”
My WPI experience showed me the importance of collaboration, communication skills, and the willingness to help others.
A Hopkinton, Mass., native with an interest in engineering, Mayer found WPI to be a natural choice. But his WPI journey took a rather circuitous route. “My first two years in the dorm and with Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity were fun. I made a lot of good friends but did not devote enough time to studies. I realized it was best to withdraw for a while.” After four years working construction jobs in Boston, Mayer returned to WPI and earned his BS in civil engineering. Attributing a fair amount of his university success to faculty at WPI, Mayer says, “With the help of several great professors—including Carl Koontz, Frank DeFalco, and Robert D’Andrea—I had a very successful academic experience, and I am extremely grateful for their genuine interest in helping me.”
Early in his career, Mayer started an environmental services and engineering company with four business partners. The company, which served the electric power industry in the Northeast, was sold to TRC Companies, Inc. in 2003. Mayer stayed on as president of the power sector, which is now made up of more than 3,000 people. He recently transitioned to executive vice president, leading the field services team and the development of new business practices.
“I gained the very obvious benefits of a first-rate engineering education, which is a great foundation for many careers. My WPI experience showed me the importance of collaboration, communication skills, and the willingness to help others,” he says. “I credit these skills and values learned at WPI with much of my career and personal success. My career has been focused on building, leading, and developing engineering teams. I am a professional engineer, thanks to WPI, but I haven’t done much engineering lately. I am lucky that WPI prepared me to do so much more.”
The Louise F. Mayer Endowed Scholarship is specifically for students from single-parent households, with a preference for students from single-mother households. “I decided to give something back to WPI as a small token of my appreciation for the education I earned there, and it seemed like a nice gesture to my mother, who made it all possible for me,” he says. “I hope this gift will enable others who may have circumstances like mine to benefit from some financial assistance to attend WPI. My hope is this scholarship in honor of my mother will make a real difference in the lives of its recipients.”