Multimillion-dollar gift launches UConn arts and engineering institute

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Grace Merritt

3 min read

STORRS, CT.—UConn alumni John and Donna Krenicki have given a $5 million gift to the University’s Schools of Engineering and Fine Arts to launch the Krenicki Arts and Engineering Institute, an innovative, interdisciplinary partnership that will offer groundbreaking classes in areas like entertainment engineering and industrial design.

The pairing of arts and engineering will provide a space where different types of creativity can collide, leading to imaginative solutions and radical breakthroughs. It will allow students to explore such fields as robotics, music and sound engineering, digital media, and product design.

“You can find pieces of this at some universities, but there is no place that I know of that has brought everything together under one academic institute. Our Institute will be the first of its kind in the country,” said Kazem Kazerounian, Dean of the School of Engineering.

Deans from both schools said bringing artists and engineers together could lead to such possibilities as virtual characters taking the stage alongside human actors, puppets animated by robotics, therapeutic inventions that can read and respond to emotions, and products designed with a more innovative aesthetic.

Students will gain the technical knowledge and enhanced creativity to tackle design challenges and come up with inspired solutions, skills that are increasingly in demand across the employment spectrum.

Krenickis with President Katsouleas
(From left) Anne D’Alleva, dean of the UConn School of Fine Arts, John Krenicki, UConn president Tom Katsouleas, Donna Krenicki and UConn School of Engineering Dean Kazem Kazerounian

“We are incredibly grateful to John and Donna Krenicki for their support of this exciting new institute, which will push UConn to the forefront of innovative design and technical solutions,” said UConn President Thomas Katsouleas. “This collaboration will give students new opportunities, a competitive edge, and strong marketability, all while helping to fuel our state’s economy and meet workforce needs.”

School of Fine Arts Dean Anne D’Alleva said the Institute responds to student demand. She noted that a Fine Arts course in technical theater has attracted so many Engineering students that the School doubled the size of the class.

The Krenickis’ $5 million gift challenges the Schools of Fine Arts and Engineering to raise $5 million in matching gifts from corporate partners.

While the Krenickis have given generously across the University before, this gift honors their personal UConn story, uniting John’s major in mechanical engineering with Donna’s in graphic design. The Krenickis met in the fall of their junior year at McMahon Hall, finding each other out of nearly 14,000 undergrads at UConn in 1982.

The Krenickis have gone on to raise three children and carve out meaningful careers that have crossed industry, private equity, and the arts, but they have never forgotten UConn. Their philanthropy has inspired excellence across the University. In addition to giving two undergraduate scholarships, they have created endowed professorships in biomedical engineering, genomics and personalized medicine, digital media and design, and, most recently, chemistry.

Donna (Samson) Krenicki, who graduated in 1984, is an artist and a member of the UConn School of Fine Arts Advisory Board. She also has served on the UConn Foundation Board of Directors and is a former trustee of the Berkshire Museum.

John Krenicki graduated from UConn in 1984 and received an honorary doctorate in 2007. He earned a master’s degree in management from Krannert Executive Education Programs at Purdue University in 1991.

He is a senior operating partner with the private equity investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, a firm recognized for its commitment to operational excellence and improving business performance. He is chairman of several of the firm’s portfolio companies and is an independent director of Devon Energy Corp. and a member of the National Petroleum Council.

Prior to joining Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, he spent 29 years at General Electric Co., where he was a former vice chairman and former president and CEO of GE Energy. He is also a former member of the UConn Foundation Board of Directors.

“This investment plays to the strengths of both Schools and gives UConn a dynamic, competitive edge,” Donna Krenicki said. “This partnership will give students far greater career marketability and a foundation for life-long learning and enjoyment.”

Jonathan at an event in Hartford CT
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