Engineers must have the ability to solve complex problems, but Norm Becker (BASc 1967, PhD 1970) taught they should be equipped with a full heart too.
The University of Windsor alumnus always found ways to use his profession to help others — from his pro bono work everywhere from rural China to the town of LaSalle, to establishing four scholarships for UWindsor students following in his footsteps.
Dr. Becker died in spring 2021 and now, thanks to a memorial scholarship established by his wife, Mary Ellen, he will continue to inspire the next generation of aspiring engineers.
“Norm always had great empathy for students,” says Mary Ellen Becker. “He mentored them gladly, began scholarships to support them and included them on some of his many projects when he could. I believe that this scholarship in his name is a very fitting tribute to his memory."
The Dr. Norbert K. Becker Scholarship in Engineering will support upper-year undergraduate students in civil and environmental engineering based on academic excellence, scholastic potential, good character, and community involvement on campus and beyond.
Becker founded and led the Becker Engineering Group of consulting companies and spent more than 50 years contributing to engineering projects spanning North America, the Middle East, Africa, South America, the Caribbean and China.
He never lost touch with the University and as an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Engineering, he mentored and even hired dozens of UWindsor students. He was also known to invite students and cover their expenses on his pro bono projects across the globe. While creating water filtration systems for villages in the Chinese province of Shandong, Becker and his team of volunteers took time to rebuild a fire-damaged medical clinic that sat unused for more than a year.
“Every school-aged child in the village inspected our work daily and charmed us with their smiles,” Becker said in a 2018 interview for WE Magazine. “I think a few of them may aspire to become engineers themselves.”
As a councillor with Professional Engineers Ontario, he developed a comprehensive pro bono action plan focused on mobilizing licensed professional engineers to become more active in donating their professional services to help charities, service clubs, and non-profit organizations implement community projects. He was recognized as an outstanding philanthropist in 2010 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and in 2011 received UWindsor’s Clark Award, which recognizes individuals who have raised the profile and reputation of the university.
Becker was one of 13 students who graduated from the University of Windsor’s civil engineering program in 1967. The close-knit group that still meets to this day established the Class of 1967 Civil Engineering Scholarship in commemoration of their 50th anniversary in 2017 under Becker’s leadership.
“Norm was widely respected not only in the Windsor area but also across Canada and internationally,” says his classmate and friend Harold Horneck. “He made a point of giving back to the community and to the engineering profession.”
Horneck recalls a time when Becker undertook repairs and an expansion of a local church.
“He jokingly said that he was doing it to make sure he had all his bases covered,” Horneck says. “Kidding aside, numerous worthwhile projects would not have been possible without his generous support of providing pro bono engineering services.”
Horneck and his classmates made memorial donations to the Class of 1967 Civil Engineering Scholarship in memory of Becker when they heard of his passing. The group plans to meet in 2022 to celebrate their 55th anniversary.
“We will raise a glass in memory of Norm and the others who are no longer with us. We are proud to say Norm was our classmate.”
Donations to the Dr. Norbert K. Becker Scholarship in Engineering can be made by contacting Katie Mazzuca, the Faculty of Engineering’s major gift officer, at 519-253-3000, ext. 5959, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was featured in the latest issue of WE, the Faculty of Engineering’s annual magazine. To receive WE and UWindsor Engineering’s quarterly e-newsletters, join the faculty’s mailing list.