A TIGHT CONNECTION
Sid & Jane Rudolph
Members of the Lawn, Cornerstone & Rotunda Societies
Sometimes, the road to a UVA education takes a circuitous path. Sid Rudolph (Engr ’78, ’81) met his wife, Jane (Engr ’84), while they were working for IBM in Manassas, Virginia. Sid had received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, but he opted to take advantage of a remote learning partnership between his employer and UVA.
“One of the things IBM was always focused on was furthering education,” he said. “So, they came up with a program with UVA where the professors would drive up to the IBM campus in Manassas. They would teach a course in the afternoon or evening and then the next morning. Jane and I were able to get our UVA master’s through that program.”
“It was unique—and talk about a great recruiting tool,” added Jane. “It was, essentially, ‘Do you want to stay in school for another year and get your master’s, or do you want to come earn money for the first time in your life and do a master’s at the same time?’”
Now retired, both Rudolphs enjoyed long careers as electrical engineers, first at IBM and later when it was sold to Lockheed Martin. “IBM’s federal business was very different from the commercial business that most people know about,” said Jane. “In one of the first systems I ever worked on, a submarine combat system, the only piece of IBM commercial equipment was a disk drive.”
After fulfilling careers as electrical engineers designing complex systems for Lockheed Martin, Sid and Jane Rudolph have turned their attention to nurturing the next generation of students at the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
“Which means that everything was totally custom,” added Sid. “All the hardware, software, everything had to be built from scratch. We both worked on submarine combat systems, I worked on some Air Force satellite programs, and ultimately, most of our time was spent on air traffic control systems, although Jane’s final job was vice president of corporate strategy at Lockheed Martin.”
“That was a lot of fun because I got to learn about airplanes, and I love them!” Jane added.
As a result of her unconventional UVA graduate studies, Jane never had the typical Grounds-based experience at the University. No matter. She’s currently serving the last year of her second term on the Engineering Foundation’s board of trustees. During the initial phase of the pandemic, she was asked to create a short video offering words of encouragement to recent graduates. She gamely met the moment, filming a welcome from her home office. “I tried to come up with something clever,” she said. “They’d been through a lot. They definitely deserved encouragement.”
Encouraging the development of new engineers has been a running theme in the Rudolphs’ long history of giving to the University. Their affinity for UVA is demonstrated by their membership in all three giving societies—Rotunda, Lawn, and Cornerstone. One of their initial gifts set up an endowment to encourage qualified graduate students in the electrical engineering program.
“The Engineering School is definitely a tight-knit community,” said Sid. “It’s not a huge school, but it is well known outside, in external industry, as producing quality graduates. I had several good friends at IBM and Lockheed Martin who were engineering graduates from UVA. They tend to be at the leadership level in the industry.”
The Rudolphs also wanted to focus another aspect of their giving by providing a path for Virginia students from backgrounds underrepresented in engineering to become the next generation of UVA engineers.
They created the Jane and Sid Rudolph University Achievement Award, an endowed scholarship that will play a critical role in adding diversity to the student population. The scholarship covers all tuition and fees and will be given to students from Virginia who demonstrate outstanding leadership and character while overcoming personal hardship. The Rudolphs are providing the initial funding now and plan to add to the scholarship fund through their estate.
“As a member of the board of trustees, I’m fortunate that I often get to hear the stories and successes of engineering students from a variety of backgrounds,” Jane said. “With this scholarship, Sid and I want to ensure that more students are given the opportunity to bring their unique perspectives into our community.”
The Rudolphs’ latest gift is funding toward a feasibility study for a new building on Whitehead Road. It’s partly a gesture of support for the school’s dean, Jennifer L. West, and partly a nod to the need to invest in future capital projects.
“When Dean West came here, one of her focus areas was on research and development, and part of her coming here was with the expectation of being able to build more lab space, teaching areas, collaboration areas, those types of things,” Sid said. “Right now, they’re trying to determine how to get the initial parts of the project funded. The initial piece is underway, where they’re working with architects and the state of Virginia to get the project approved to go forward. We pledged for the next phase, that turns that vision into a building. Jane came up with the novel idea to make it a matching gift with other board members. We offered to match up to a certain amount to get more of the trustees involved in the project.”
Whether it’s providing funding for graduate students, encouraging diversity at the school and in the profession, or moving the school into the future, the Rudolphs always circle back to their gratitude for a UVA education.
“I know I never would have been able to go to Virginia or probably any other major school like that without significant financial aid,” Sid said.
“I got to do some really exciting things over my career, and education is such a foundational element of that,” said Jane. “I've been blessed, I've been lucky. I'm happy to give back.”