Dan Deans and Jill Marsh
Jill Marsh BS ASE '09, with Dan Deans BS ASE '90. Jill joined Millennium in November in the Albuquerque office where she supports their Rapid Response Space Works Contract.

When Dan Deans, BS ASE '90 and Vice President of Corporate Development at Millennium Engineering, attended his first ASE/EM External Advisory Committee meeting, he was immediately inspired. He knew Millennium had just encountered a wonderful opportunity.

"I met Steve DeLeon and his wife and was really honored to hear Steve's story," Deans said. DeLeon had told committee members about the combined $10,000 he and Lockheed Martin were gifting to the Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Department to attract high-quality students, especially women, to UT's program. "I was immediately taken by his heart for it and felt our company would be able to make a substantial contribution."

So Deans took the idea back to Brian McKee, BS ASE '80 and Millennium Chairman of the Board, who immediately agreed that Millennium should set an example for other companies by providing a substantial donation.

"Brian bleeds orange like I do, and the entire reason we're doing this is that we want to inspire others," Deans said. The company is giving $31,000 to UT's department, $6,000 of which is from personal donations of Millennium employees.

“Millennium Engineering and Integration Company is honored to be able to support the University of Texas, the Cockrell School of Engineering, and specifically, the Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Department," McKee said. "As a company, we are committed to diversity in the aerospace engineering career field and focused on serving our friends at UT through scholarship giving, mentorship, and partnership in student projects."

Although Millennium is a small company of only about 300 employees, they play a big part in providing engineering expertise and support in spacecraft development across government agencies, including the Missile Defense Agency, NASA and the Department of Defense. Now they want to play a big part in inspiring other companies to give to UT without waiting for an employee to request a matching gift.

Among the Advisory Committee's priorities – and one of the biggest reasons for Millennium's gift – is the need to attract more women to engineering.

"It was discouraging to hear some of the statistics at the meeting, so hopefully we'll be able to entice more women to enroll in aerospace," Deans said. "It really is important that we have a diverse mix of students in the department and that people understand that there's a tremendous opportunity out there in industry for students who have this degree."

In fact, Millennium recently hired one of those outstanding students: Jill Marsh, who graduated from UT's aerospace program last December, will be working on a new Millennium project for NASA's Ames Research Center and the Department of Defense that will ultimately provide the government with the ability to assemble and launch a satellite within seven days for rapid response to emergencies and/or military threats.

"I am excited about the prospect of encouraging more women to experience the enriching and exciting career that I have certainly had, and to know the value of aerospace engineering in our society," McKee said. "I am hopeful that through Millennium’s investment, more young ladies will be encouraged to join the ranks of UT Aerospace Engineers, and I certainly look forward to helping those young women join the work force when they graduate.”

Deans said he hopes corporate and individual giving will exceed the Advisory Committee’s goals this year and that Millennium's gift will become an annual contribution.

"We ought to be providing this contribution on a yearly basis – and hopefully to grow it – so we're not only giving back to the University and encouraging more women in engineering, but we can set the example for other companies to do the same thing," Deans said. "That will hopefully draw more excellent students into the department, and more folks will be inspired to join the cause."

Deans, who has also worked in the chemical and semiconductor industries, pointed out that one of the challenges of recruitment, especially of women, is many people's misunderstanding about the value of an aerospace engineering degree.

"I've been very blessed in my career and there's a lot of that waiting for people out there," he said. "An aerospace engineering degree opens a lot of doors, and I'm hoping more women and more men alike will see this degree as very versatile. They can add a lot of value in a lot of different places if they'll give it a shot."

Deans also mentioned the misunderstanding by some that UT is very well-funded by the state and therefore does not require donations.

"The state legislature has reduced the funding and budgets have been reduced, so now more than ever the University needs support from its alumni and corporations to draw good students," he said. "The funding that used to exist just doesn't exist anymore."

Although Millennium plans to give to other universities as well, UT is receiving their first donation.

"I wouldn't have it any other way," Deans said. "I've always been a Longhorn, and there are very few causes as worthy as helping kids get their degree."

If you would like to contribute to the Women In Aerospace Engineering Scholarship Fund, please contact Bliss Angerman at 512-232-7085 or bliss.angerman@austin.utexas.edu.