Couple’s Donation Helps PNW Establish State-of-the-Art Engineering Design Studio

March 31, 2021

Stewart McMillan, chairman emeritus of Task Force Tips, tours the new PNW Design Studio with Dietmar Rempfer, director of the PNW School of Engineering and Marcel Mejulu, Design Studio support technician.
(From left): Dietmar Rempfer, director of the Purdue University Northwest (PNW) School of Engineering; PNW Chancellor Thomas L. Keon; Stewart McMillan, chairman emeritus of Task Force Tips; and Kenneth C. Holford, PNW provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, cut the ribbon on the PNW Design Studio.

(From left): Dietmar Rempfer, director of the Purdue University Northwest (PNW) School of Engineering; PNW Chancellor Thomas L. Keon; Stewart McMillan, chairman emeritus of Task Force Tips; and Kenneth C. Holford, PNW provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, cut the ribbon on the PNW Design Studio.

The School of Engineering at Purdue University Northwest has opened the PNW Design Studio, featuring state-of-the-art facilities and equipment and offering a new level of experience in design and innovation for engineering students.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to recognize the generous support of PNW alumnus Stewart McMillan, BS ’77, and his wife, Kathryn, whose visionary gifts made it possible to establish the PNW Design Studio – Where Ideas Flow.

“Purdue Northwest was there for me at a critical time in my life,” stated McMillan, who will serve as PNW’s Commencement keynote speaker in May. He wanted to impact the lives of today’s PNW students while expanding entrepreneurial opportunity in the region. The McMillans believe the new engineering design studio combines both ideas into a single innovative hub, giving students valuable hands-on experience.

“We have a lot of theoretical engineers,” stated McMillan. “What we need are more engineers who can turn ideas into actions, then into reality.”

State-of-the-Art Space

Stewart McMillan, chairman emeritus of Task Force Tips, tours the new PNW Design Studio with Dietmar Rempfer, director of the PNW School of Engineering and Marcel Mejulu, Design Studio support technician.

(l-r) Stewart McMillan, chairman emeritus of Task Force Tips, tours the new PNW Design Studio with Dietmar Rempfer, director of the PNW School of Engineering and Marcel Mejulu, Design Studio support technician. Generous gifts from PNW alumnus McMillan and his wife, Kathryn, made it possible for PNW to establish the student-centered Design Studio.

The 8,000-square-foot studio provides creation, assembly and maker spaces that will serve student competition and senior design project teams, as well as provide support for teaching and experiential learning across the PNW School of Engineering. In addition, the PNW Design Studio will bring together engineering students and faculty and help to facilitate work on projects with external stakeholders in the community, industry, Northwest Indiana and neighboring states.

“The programs offered in and supported by this building will give students the skills needed to be successful in the working world – collaboration, working in cross-disciplinary teams, learning new tools and methods for the development and presentation of ideas, and ultimately the creation of innovative products and services,” stated Dietmar Rempfer, director of the School of Engineering.

McMillan, who serves as a member of PNW’s School of Engineering External Advisory Board, and Kathryn offered a challenge match for the 2018 PNW Day of Giving. The challenge was met through external and internal donations and was followed in 2019 for that year’s Day of Giving.

“Donors like Stewart McMillan, who are eager to see students today have the same opportunities they had, can elevate our programs to new levels,” stated Jamie Manahan, executive director for Development and Major Gifts. “His own career has been shaped by the transformative experience of the education he received at our university. Our engineering programs would not be what they are today without donors like him, who remember and remind all of us of the power education has to change lives.”

The programs offered in and supported by this building will give students the skills needed to be successful in the working world – collaboration, working in cross-disciplinary teams, learning new tools and methods for the development and presentation of ideas, and ultimately the creation of innovative products and services.

Dietmar Rempfer, director, PNW’s School of Engineering.



An Early Interest

Interested in engineering from an early age, McMillan loved learning from his father, an accomplished engineer and founder of Valparaiso-based Task Force Tips, Inc. He had planned to attend college at a downstate school; however, faced with losing the family business, he chose to stay in the area, help his family and attend PNW.

McMillan went on to receive the university’s first degree in interdisciplinary engineering while working full-time at his family’s business. He has since grown the business serving first as president and now as chairman emeritus.

“I would not have become an engineer and our family business would not have moved forward had I gone downstate,” McMillan stated. “Purdue Northwest was there for me and I want it to be there for others.”