The Friedens: Marc (far right) and Becky (second from left), with Daughters Hannah (far left) and Sophie.

The Friedens Find Their Places at WPI

Marc Frieden ’93 is an unassuming guy, but he positively lights up when asked about his daughter Hannah’s decision to apply to WPI. “I never pressured her!” he swears, and Hannah, now a junior, agrees, but it’s clear that he is happy she found the right fit on his former campus. “And she’s a much better student than I was!”

Marc is a Worcester native through and through, having attended Bancroft School and lived on Burncoat Street. You might say he was destined to come to WPI: the house his family purchased when he was in middle school had previously been owned by the Jeppson family.* They found some of John Jeppson’s papers stuffed in eaves in the attic and donated them to the WPI Archives.

After he’d applied to a few colleges, a high school friend who knew the Kennedys from Kennedy Die Castings (another family with several WPI alumni) told him, “Well, if you get into WPI, that’s where you are going. There’s no better place.” So in 1989 he moved into Riley Hall and began studies as a mechanical engineering major.

“The best thing I’ve done in my life is raise my kids. To have one follow in my footsteps makes me very proud.”

Marc was intrigued by how things worked. He took on a work-study job in the machine shop and his principal activity outside of classes was participating in the Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) race car project. “I missed my own graduation because we had a race that day,” he says. After concluding his WPI career, he worked for General Dynamics Electric Boat division in Groton, Conn., before taking a management position at a family-owned packaging company.

Hannah, of course, knew about her father’s connection to WPI, but it wasn’t on her radar as a place she wanted to attend. She asked her father to show her around campus, but she didn’t request any admissions materials. A turning point for her was attending several “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” programs run by Judy Nitsch ’75 at Nitsch Engineering. She was also influenced by Paula Delaney ’75, a friend and colleague of her mother’s. Two weeks before the deadline, having done no real research, Hannah applied to WPI.

She developed an interest in civil engineering and land planning in high school and fell in love with architecture and building design once she arrived on campus. She participated in the first-year Great Problems Seminar, choosing the section called “Livable Cities.” Her project on food deserts in Atlanta was a GPS Poster Session award winner. She will complete her Interactive Qualifying Project in Greece.

When asked what makes WPI special to her, the Phi Sigma Sigma sister says, “It feels like home now in a way that I didn’t understand before. People have similar goals and the same work ethic. I feel like I’m with like-minded people.”

“It’s okay to be to be a geek, to be a girl who likes math,” her father added.

When asked what WPI means to him, Marc responds, “The best thing I’ve done in my life is raise my kids. To have one follow in my footsteps makes me very proud.”

*John Jeppson was a founder of Norton Company in Worcester (now a division of Saint-Gobain). His son George, who ultimately became Nortons chairman, attended WPI with the Class of 1897 and received a WPI honorary doctorate in 1945. George built a house at 41 Burncoat Street in Worcester and later moved to 1 Drury Lane. He donated the Drury Lane house to WPI in 1941.

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