UWM Engineering Grads Map Out a Plan for Giving and for Life

August 3, 2018

Alumni Kevin and AJ Kleinosowski have been supporters of UWM since shortly after they graduated in 1997 and 1999, repsectively. A decade later, they established the Kleinosowski Honors College Scholarship, and this past year they added to their philanthropy by including the College of Engineering & Applied Science and the Honors College in their estate plans.

Avid hikers, the Kleinosowskis have mapped their way up many bucket-list mountains around the world. In addition to her engineering degrees, AJ pursued a Wilderness First Responder Emergency Medicine certificate to better prepare for unexpected complications in remote areas. A key tenet in emergency response is, “If you didn’t write it down, it didn’t happen.” The Kleinosowskis have found this tenet applicable and valuable in all aspects of their lives, including their giving.

Since graduating, AJ and Kevin have maintained a written decade-by-decade goals list, and they review and revise this life map every three months. Their estate gift to UWM has been on their map since the very beginning. AJ explains, “We wanted to ensure that whatever funds we had, even meager funds as graduate students, were directed according to our wishes.”

“Life changes. Plans can and do change, and we can adjust our planned gift if needed,” adds Kevin.

He and AJ selected UWM for its computer science academic program partly because it was housed in the College of Engineering & Applied Science. The engineering focus of the program greatly assisted both Kevin and AJ as their careers have repeatedly swung between the software side of computer design and the hardware side.

As students, Kevin and AJ were president and vice president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Computer Society (IEEE-CS) student organization. They recall that the organization provided its members with a private computer laboratory that had individual desks, a couch and lounge area, and “cheap Mountain Dew.” Kevin and AJ often reminisce about their many happy hours tinkering with computers and socializing with fellow students in the IEEE-CS laboratory.

In her first year at UWM, AJ enrolled in Honors calculus with Professor Kevin McLeod. This was an experimental new course that aimed to compress the typical three-semester calculus sequence into two semesters. AJ entered the course as a strong math student, feeling she could easily handle the accelerated pace. That bit of hubris was short lived; for the first time in her academic life, she was completely lost.

For AJ, failure – or even getting a B – was not an option. She learned about the concept of professors’ office hours and leveraged this one-on-one time to obtain the supplemental tutoring she needed, arriving at Professor McLeod’s office at the beginning of nearly every office-hour session. She often stayed through the entire session, sitting in on other student’s questions. Occasionally the office “hour” extended into what AJ calls a “math geek-out session” with students exuberantly working through proofs and theorems for hours.

“Professor McLeod displayed unparalleled patience with his students,” AJ recalls. “He clearly fed off the students’ energy, and he was just as excited to refine his experimental course as we were to conquer Honors calculus.”

During one particular office-hour session, AJ was at the chalkboard working through a proof while McLeod watched her progress. When AJ recalled a calculus trick and compressed a triple integral into a simple linear expression, McLeod smiled and asked, “AJ, you are an accounting major, correct?”

When she said yes, he replied, “That proof you just solved was especially creative. ‘Creative accounting’ typically isn’t complimentary. Have you considered a career in math?”

Soon after that discussion AJ changed her major and launched into the world of engineering, thanks to the mentoring she received by Professor McLeod. Although she did not pursue a formal degree in math, her experience struggling through and eventually triumphing in Honor calculus shaped her outlook and approach to countless engineering challenges.

AJ has spent her career working for large blue chip companies. She designed electronics for supercomputers at IBM and now designs electronics for airplanes at Boeing. Kevin has spent his career following the bleeding-edge excitement of the startup world. He has designed software for data centers, consumer electronics, and telecommunications.

Each year, AJ and Kevin enjoy reading essays submitted by student applicants of the Kleinosowski Scholarship. The one-page essays document each student’s career aspirations and goals. “We hope our scholarship shepherds students into formulating and documenting their own life maps,” explain AJ and Kevin. “We read every one of these essays, and are often informed and amused by them. We find these essays to be an excellent window into the mentality and mindset of ‘kids these days.’”