Alum credits “real engineering” education at UCCS for career boost | Tom Saponas ‘72

When UCCS alum Tom Saponas started his career at Hewlett Packard in 1972, his fellow new employees boasted degrees from a few of the most prestigious universities in the country — Stanford, USC, and MIT among others. Saponas felt anxious about how his engineering education would stack up to his peers. 

Saponas valued his training at UCCS, but he understood that the young campus in Colorado Springs had its limitations — rundown facilities, small classrooms, and only a few professors. Surely it was no coincidence that he started at Hewlett Packard with the lowest salary of any new employee.

But after a year at Hewlett Packard, Saponas had made such an impact that he was no longer the lowest paid of his peers. In fact, it had only taken him a year to garner the highest salary at the company among his class of newcomers. Saponas realized it was the perceived limitations at UCCS that had actually propelled him in his new career.

“In some respects, I was better trained,” he said. “I had done more interesting projects, done things that were more like real engineering than if it had been totally academic. I got to do research projects with professors.”

Saponas has stayed close to his alma mater, establishing an endowment in 2000 to provide scholarships for undergraduate students at the UCCS College of Engineering and Applied Science. He’s seen the UCCS campus experience tremendous growth since his days as a student. But unlike larger universities, Saponas contends, UCCS has maintained its focus on a personal educational experience even as it’s expanded facilities, enrollment and faculty.

“There’s a lot of stuff that’s maintained, and that’s amazing.”

Tom Saponas is a distinguished alumnus who delivered the fall 2012 commencement keynote speech. View a list of other notable alumni here.