The Evolution of Engagement


Andrew Aberdale ’18 spent the first five of his undergraduate and graduate years as an EMT for WPI Emergency Medical Services. You might consider his volunteer work as payback—he quite literally owes his life to WPI.

Aberdale’s parents, Andy and LindaLeigh Richert Aberdale, met at WPI 34 years ago as undergraduate transfer students.

“We always tease Andrew that the reason he exists is because of WPI,” LindaLeigh jokes. “That’s another reason we feel we owe WPI a lot. Andy’s and my lives have been changed immensely because of WPI.”

The couple support WPI through philanthropy and leadership. Andy is co-vice chairman of WPI’s Board of Trustees. LindaLeigh is an executive board member of the Women’s Impact Network (WIN). Both sit on the Foisie Business School’s Dean’s Council of Strategic Advisors, which she co-chairs.

WPI was their son’s first choice of colleges, but back in the 1980s, his parents took a somewhat circuitous path to the Institute. Andy studied criminal justice at Westfield State College but was excelling in chemistry. The department head encouraged him to transfer to a college strong in STEM.   

WPI accepted Andy as a second-year chemical engineering student in January of 1986. Around the same time, LindaLeigh was frustrated by the slow pace of working toward her bachelor’s degree while holding down a full-time job. Her father’s employer offered a scholarship to WPI, so she applied. She was thrilled to be accepted as a second-year student majoring in management with computer applications.

Although they began their WPI careers at the same time, the two didn’t meet until the following fall when both were living on the first floor of Founders Hall. Andy was pledging Alpha Chi Rho and, coincidentally, LindaLeigh had rented a room in the fraternity house over that summer and had become active with the fraternity.

One day as Andy was walking behind LindaLeigh in Founders Hall, Andy called out, “Hi, LindaLeigh!”  She spun around and was pleasantly surprised to see him.  Although she didn’t know who he was, she deduced he was with AXP by the shirt he was wearing. For the rest of the term, Andy went out of his way to accidentally bump into LindaLeigh at breakfast. They started dating in December of that year.

Both were serious students, determined to finish their coursework in three years, despite losing credits in their transfers. They made their personal deadlines. Andy went to work for W.R. Grace as a process engineer, and LindaLeigh took a VMS systems manager’s job with Digital Equipment Corp. while working toward a master’s in systems engineering at Boston University. The two continued dating for three years while living on opposite coasts. 

They married and settled in California, where their son, Andrew II, was born several years later. Andy earned an MBA from St. Mary’s, and LindaLeigh became a software engineer, eventually specializing in cybersecurity. The family moved a couple times following Andy’s career. Life went on, and WPI receded further into their past.

But when they moved back to Massachusetts, they gradually reconnected with their alma mater.  By this time, Andy had become a turnaround expert, helping struggling or transitioning companies to excel. He was one of the original members of WPI’s newly established Tech Advisors Network. He recognized how well WPI prepared him for his career.

Andy proudly says, “I’m probably not the smartest person in the room, but I can understand most things because of my WPI education. I got my intense work ethic from my parents, but WPI pushed it to a new level.” 

Andrew arrived on the WPI campus in 2014. He double majored in management information systems and management engineering. His parents were careful to give him room to find his own way, which he did very well. Coincidentally, he pledged Alpha Chi Rho, the fraternity that first established his parents’ bond.

To show their appreciation, LindaLeigh designed and created stained glass window panels for the fraternity house depicting the ATO coat of arms and its original chapter, Delta Sigma Tau. The family built the frames, and those panels were installed just before Andrew graduated.

This was just one more example of the Aberdales’ commitment to the WPI community. Andrew, who will earn his master’s in data science this spring, says, “They took the opportunity to build on WPI long after their time at the university was over and just as mine was starting. I’m really proud of the work they both do.”

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