Gerald Ziarno and his wife Yoshie.
Gerald Ziarno and his wife Yoshie.
“I have always felt that you give back to what helped make you.”

Alumnus Appreciates and Sustains Tech

Gerald Ziarno '59 has been a steward of his alma mater for more than thirty years. One of his major priorities is the endowed scholarship for graduates of Nouvel Catholic Central High School in Saginaw, in particular for those who want to study in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines at Tech.

He and his wife, Yoshie, have also supported Tech through annual giving and their estate plans. "I want to contribute and to encourage people to give to Michigan Tech," he says. "I have always felt that you give back to what helped make you."

That ethic has entailed extensive involvement and recognition. Ziarno is a member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Academy and a life trustee and past president of the Michigan Tech Fund. He has received Tech's Distinguished Alumni Award and is a member of the McNair Society, which honors donors who provide for the University through their estates.

Ziarno graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. His goal at the time was simply "to make a living." While on campus, he was in the Newman Club (now Catholic Campus Ministries), the Air Force ROTC, and Kappa Delta Psi Fraternity. One of his fondest memories of his college days was being a member, and president, of the Blue Key National Honor Fraternity. "I learned management skills and how to run a team," he says, "get people to cooperate and accomplish."

After graduating, he served three years in the Air Force in Japan. He started working for Dow Corning in 1962 and remained there the rest of his career. He retired in 1996 as corporate vice president and executive director of marketing and sales.

Ziarno visited campus in October and was encouraged with the current leadership at both the Michigan Tech Fund and the University. "I am favorably impressed with the harmony that exists among all the efforts," he says. "I thank all involved for pulling together and working together."

Ziarno, who attained international stature in industry, espouses a rock-solid maxim: "If you have a product," he says, "and you believe in what you're doing and what you're selling, you're going to succeed."

He did exactly that during his distinguished career at Dow Corning, and he continues to do so at Michigan Tech. He cochairs the 2009 effort to solicit gifts from the Class of 1959. It's a sure sell because he believes there is a pervading sense among alumni that Michigan Tech continues to do first-rate and important work.

"Tech continues to turn out very well-prepared and educated people. It is doing whatever it can to prepare students to go out in the world and work for companies struggling to be competitive on an international basis."

America needs leadership in STEM, he says. "The US is experiencing a dire shortage of home-grown professionals being educated in these areas. We need to do a better job of getting young people to enter these careers."

Ziarno has a global perspective, working abroad for Dow in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. He also has traveled to more than seventy countries to indulge one of his abiding avocations—his wife calls it "a mania: studying, looking at, and chasing birds." This fall, he was planning a trip to Antarctica to "see penguins and other stuff down there." He's even co-authored A Birder's Guide to Michigan.

Meanwhile, like the birds of the air, he helps Michigan Tech take wing.