AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering has received a $10.55 million philanthropic investment from Walter S. “Walt” and Virginia E. “Ginger” Woltosz to support its students’ educational needs and faculty’s research efforts, while bolstering the technical advances of its research facilities. Their charitable gift is the second largest in the college’s history. In recognition of their support, the Auburn University Board of Trustees voted to name engineering’s central research facility in the Shelby Center for Engineering Technology as the Woltosz Engineering Research Laboratory.
Walt Woltosz earned a bachelor’s degree in 1969 and a master’s degree in 1977 in aerospace engineering from Auburn and also holds a master’s in administrative science from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He is chairman and CEO of Simulations Plus, a company he founded in 1996 that is a leading developer of simulation and modeling software for drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Simulations Plus products are used by more than 200 pharmaceutical firms, including the world’s Top 25, helping to analyze new products and saving millions of dollars in research and development costs.
When Ginger’s mother became ill, Woltosz began developing augmentative communication systems for persons with severe disabilities. In 1981, Walt and Ginger founded Words+, a leader in creating state-of-the-art products that “unlock the person” by providing the highest quality communication and computer access tools available. The products have been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution. When world-renowned astrophysicist Sir Stephen Hawking’s ability to communicate was compromised by ALS, it was the Words+ Equalizer and EZ Keys programs that allowed Hawking to continue his groundbreaking work.
“The quality of an Auburn engineering education is evidenced by the tremendous successes of so many of the college’s alumni, and I have been one of the very fortunate ones,” Walt Woltosz said. “We know our educations were supported by the gifts of others, so now it’s our turn to ‘pay it forward.’ Ginger and I believe in Auburn and hope that our gifts will assist in continuing its progress toward the forefront of engineering education in the nation and in the world.”
Their charitable gift will enhance their previous support of the Woltosz graduate fellows program while at the same time fund educational initiatives, research efforts and advancements in the college’s research facilities. It also creates a new endowed professorship in the Department of Aerospace Engineering in addition to the one the couple previously funded.
“Given Walt’s tremendous contributions to innovation throughout his career, it is quite fitting for our advanced research laboratory to be named in his honor,” said Christopher Roberts, dean of engineering. “Walt and Ginger’s investment in the college is pivotal to our ability to remain at the forefront of engineering research and education as we continue our trajectory of becoming one of the nation’s premier engineering programs.”
Walt Woltosz holds the Distinguished Auburn Engineer Award and is a member of the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame. He serves on the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, the Auburn University Research Advisory Board and recently was elected to the board of directors of the Auburn University Foundation. He and Ginger also are members of Auburn’s 1856 Society, as well as the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s Keystone Society, Ginn Society and Engineering Eagles Society. He also is a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association.
Charitable gifts made in support of Auburn’s academic programs are received by the Auburn University Foundation on the university’s behalf. To make a tax-deductible, charitable donation to Auburn, visit www.auburn.edu/giving or learn more about the full scope of philanthropic opportunities that can benefit the university at https://develop.auburn.edu/how/.