Generating a Passion for Electrical Engineering

Though alumnus Don Backys ‘67 and senior electrical engineering student Alec Dam have never met, they share a special connection through their passions for electrical engineering and support from an MSOE endowment.

As a member of the MSOE Amateur Radio Club in the 1960s, Backys says his time on campus opened doors to a professional career he never thought was possible. “The radio club was like a fraternity to me. It brought together future engineers who really had their heart and soul in radio communications.”

Connections he made while in the group also led to Backys earning his private pilot’s license and landing his first job with Collins Radio Company as an avionic development engineer.

During his professional career Backys wanted to do more to stay connected to MSOE and keep abreast on the ever-changing industry trends in his field. For more than 30 years he served on the Electrical Engineering Technology Advisory Board. But after retirement, he suddenly felt disconnected.

Then a chance encounter helped Backys gain perspective.

“I met a man who told me life was really three letters: L, E and R. From birth to age 23 we really ‘Learn.’ From age 23 to 65, we ‘Earn’ and from 65 on we should ‘Return.’ After that conversation he remembers calling MSOE to ask what he could do to “help the kids.”

It happened that the ability to stay connected to his alma mater and “return” the incredible opportunity he once had was easier than he imagined. “I thought it took massive amounts to set up a scholarship. But working with MSOE I had my endowment up and running very quickly.”

Today, Backys has two endowments with MSOE. The Donald J. Backys Facility Endowment to support upgrades to equipment for labs in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, and the Donald J. Backys Endowment Scholarship supporting students pursing a degree in this field.

Both funds play a critical role in supporting and enriching Dam’s learning experience on campus.

“I truly enjoy working on embedded systems and small circuit designs in class and labs. Thanks to Don’s investment in me I have had the amazing opportunity to further my knowledge in engineering and one day make a difference in this world.”

Through support from Backys, Dam’s academic career has opened doors of possibility for his future and inspired him to one day ‘return’ that to MSOE. “Through my internship at American Transmission Company, I have found a passion in the power side of electrical engineering that is promising. I also intend on paying it forward when I’m an alumnus of MSOE.”

As for Backys it warms his heart knowing he can be part of the continuing proud heritage at MSOE.

“It makes me feel great knowing each day I’m making a difference in someone’s life.”