Donald Weinkauf (Class of 1982) was a typical Green Lake High School student-- involved in everything including athletics, student council, science congress, thespians, and Badger Boy State. And like many other GLHS graduates, he has become a leader in his field.
Don received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. He earned his bachelor's in chemical engineering from Iowa State University. He has conducted research on the use of plasma polymerization and plasma treatments to modify the surfaces of special engineering materials.
His impressive career has led him most recently to the position of Dean of the School of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was previously Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology – a department he helped found 12 years ago. Prior to joining New Mexico Tech, he was a research engineer with Shell Oil Company in Houston, Texas.
A student-centered leader, Weinkauf won the 2001 New Mexico Tech Distinguished Teaching Award. In 2005, he was honored nationally for his leadership in Chemical Engineering education with a Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award. He had his first exposure to teaching as a foreign scholar in Mexico. It was this experience that led him to his career as an educator, mentor, and friend to his students.
Don is currently living in St. Paul with his wife, Holly, and their three children, Roan (5), Eli (8), and Madeline (10).
Questions we asked Don:
What is one of the best things about GLHS?
The best thing about GLHS is the abundance of opportunity. Most students at larger schools are channeled into a very narrow range of activities… you’re either in band, or work for the paper, or assisting on a special project with a teacher, or play a sport, or you are active in government. At GreenLake, it’s not about one or the other… it’s all about what you want to do. The experience I gained at GreenLake, is that you can learn from and enjoy doing anything that you commit yourself to doing well. It is something that I have carried with me since high school and has led me down some very exciting career paths.
Advice to current high school students?
I have two pieces of advice for students… 1) take as many Math and Science courses as you can (sorry it’s my job to say that) and 2) engage in thespians, forensics, or some activity where you are asked to speak in front of others. No matter what career path you choose, science and communication will add that extra dimension to your work that really makes difference.