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Dedicated donors

By Brooke Fisher
November 16, 2018

Marilyn and Tom Draeger (seated) with their family.

Draegers fund new Environmental Engineering Lab equipment

Marilyn and Tom Draeger (BSCE ‘68) don’t just wait for good things to happen. They come up with the ideas.

Long-time supporters of the UW Civil & Environmental Engineering Department, the couple recently donated $20,000 to the Environmental Engineering Lab to fund much-needed lab equipment.

“We wanted to contribute to a cause that would affect the most students,” Marilyn Draeger said.

To have the greatest reach, several new pieces of lab equipment were purchased, rather than just one higher priced item. The new lab instrumentation includes two ultraviolet-visible spectrophotometers, a polymerase chain reaction thermal cycler, a gel electrophoresis system, two multi-position magnetic stir plates, an incubating orbital shaker, and a set of 18 adjustable-height lab stools.

The equipment will be used by juniors in the Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering (BSENVE) program, now in its second year, as well as students taking introductory environmental engineering courses in the civil engineering program. 

Students use new lab equipment funded by Marilyn and Tom Draeger during an “Intro to Microbial Principles” environmental engineering course.

“These purchases will greatly improve our capabilities to teach critical concepts in environmental microbiology, environmental chemistry, water quality engineering and environmental analysis,” said associate professor Mike Dodd, who oversees the introductory environmental chemistry lab course taken by students in the BSENVE program. 

With a passion for giving back, the Draegers also collaborated with the heavy engineering construction association, the Beavers, where Tom Draeger serves on the board of directors, to establish a new fund to support the hiring of a construction lecturer for the department. The new position will be filled in the coming year. The couple also previously established a professorship in 2008 in partnership with the Beavers Charitable Trust, which is currently held by professor Steve Muench.

The Draegers’ commitment to supporting students can be traced back to Tom Draeger’s years as an undergraduate student at UW. During his senior year, he was offered a scholarship that covered more than half of his tuition and living expenses.

“The UW provided me with an education that allowed me to do a lot of things in life,” Tom Draeger said.

Retired from Bechtel Corporation, where he worked for the majority of his career, Tom Draeger served as senior vice president of the Bechtel Group and the president of Bechtel Construction Operations. Responsible for Bechtel’s global construction activities, he oversaw major civil, airport, rail and transportation projects around the world. His family relocated frequently to various job sites, including Saudi Arabia, Ireland and Bahrain.

After retiring, the couple moved to Walnut Creek, Calif., to be close to their daughters and family.

“We’ve moved 28 different times and have lived in almost every continent in the world,” Marilyn Draeger said. “This is where we’ve come to settle and UW is where we wish to donate.”

Lab funding opportunities

Donations big and small can have an impact on CEE students, allowing them to complete more hands-on lab assignments and better collaborate on projects. The department recently received funding from the College of Engineering to improve the Materials Lab, but several labs are still in need, including:

  • Harris Hydraulics Lab: To enable small groups of students to conduct fluid labs, funding is needed to purchase modular experimental test set-ups and renovate space to accommodate the equipment.
  • Geotechnical Engineering Lab: To enable groups of students to perform soil tests, multi-axial testing systems are needed in addition to new microscopes and furniture.
  • Environmental Engineering Lab: To continue building up the environmental engineering lab, a core component of the new BSENVE program, additional support is needed for space upgrades and instrumentation.

View a more comprehensive overview of facilities funding needs.To explore giving opportunities, contact Kaitlin Colleary at 206-685-6192 or