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Giving Story: Alan Sirkin, BSCE ’67 and Alicia Sirkin

What do you do for a living now?

I currently have three different businesses: I own and operate real estate properties, manage a family investment portfolio and for 30 years have been an arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association hearing construction legal cases.

What’s your first memory of the College of Engineering?

My first memory is being overwhelmed and intimidated. My first course was Introduction to Engineering where there was a giant slide rule the likes of which I had never seen before. In high school we had never even heard of a slide rule. The professor was also teaching us how to use a large book of log tables, which was staggering and complex. After much challenging work and focus, I made it through and was even able to pass statics and dynamics courses. I was on my way!

Tell me about someone who has influenced your decision to work with the College of Engineering.

Truth is, no one influenced my decision to donate to the CoE, but I was successful in business and wanted to give back. When I was a director for the CoE Alumni Association and talking with Dr. Tony Nanni of the civil department, he wanted to start a new program to hire a Professor in Practice. He has an infectious personality. So, I brought him in to present his concept at a meeting of the CoE Alumni Board, with the hope of securing funding. I strongly believed in his idea and decided to fund the new professorship position myself. I have always been self-motivated to take action on things that I believe in. So I suppose Dr. Nanni was the greatest influence in my decision to work in a more in-depth capacity with the CoE.

What would you say are your strongest beliefs about the College of Engineering?

I wasn’t the strongest student in high school and was more interested in science, photography and water skiing, but I wanted to be an engineer (as my family had been in the building business for generations). Although I wasn’t sure I could succeed, UM’s engineering program was intimate and the professors were available and helpful. They didn’t make it easy, but it was fun and the professors and program enabled me to move in the direction I wanted to go. Had I been at a bigger college, I might very well have been lost. I believe that the CoE is an academically strong, leading-edge yet nurturing environment that can help any student achieve their dreams. Additionally, I feel the greatest takeaway is that the education received will help them succeed in all aspects of business and life.

When you last donated to the College of Engineering, how did that make you feel?

I feel very lucky to be financially successful, and I felt fortunate that I was able to give back to UM. I grew up in a family that was very philanthropic, and I believe in the “vacuum theory”: When you give money away, more money and good karma will actually come in to fill in the vacuum. And it is true!

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I grew up on a large ranch in Lake Placid, Florida. You could say I was a cowboy. My horse, “Swifty,” and I used to regularly participate in the roundups of our herd of white-faced Hereford cows.

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