Alum’s $1-million gift makes education attainable for tomorrow’s American Indian leaders
Greg Shega never planned to continue his education after high school.
“I had no desire to go to college,” he said. “I chose to follow in my father’s footsteps and work in the mines.”
Shega and his future wife, Amy Weber, both worked in the iron mines in Hibbing, Minn., until she moved to San Diego to pursue educational and professional goals. Shega later started taking a few classes at Hibbing Community College, until the mine permanently closed in 1985. He was offered retraining assistance, and was able to use that money to complete his engineering degree at UND.
Shega chose UND for its “strong and small” electrical engineering program, and he’s thankful for the guidance he received there.
“Many professors will impact your education, some in a lasting way,” Shega reminisced. “Dr. Ronald Moe influenced my career in ways I couldn’t imagine at the time and I appreciate that to this day.”
After graduating from UND in May of 1987, Shega accepted a position with General Dynamics in San Diego. Over the next several years, his career with the aerospace and defense company spanned several areas, including flight test lead on the Tomahawk Cruise Missile team, avionics design and field support on the Advanced Cruise Missile program, manufacturing test of General Motors air bag controllers, and eventually the Engineering Program Manager for the Close-In Weapon System program, which is the last line of defense for all U.S. Navy surface combatants.
Today, he leads an advanced development program.
Lack of diversity
After sending their son, Zachary, to college, Greg and Amy realized there was so much more to the cost of an education than tuition, housing and books.
“We asked ourselves many times how other families were able to afford it when they may have more than one child, a lower income, medical bills, and so forth,” Shega shared.
Additionally, through his 31 years in the engineering workforce, Shega says he’s noticed one fairly constant theme: a lack of diversity.
“Though there has been a slow increase in women and people of color, the field still lags other professions,” Shega stated.
To battle these issues, Greg and Amy established a $1 million gift in their will. In their view, the Native American community is under-represented in many professions.
“Growing up in northern Minnesota we saw the challenges and biases that many Native Americans faced, and it is even more evident down here in Arizona,” Shega said.
Shega hopes their gift helps kids obtain an education they or their families didn’t think was possible. He and Amy established the “ZESWS STEM and INMED Program Scholarship Endowments,” with the purpose of helping young Native Americans become the technical and medical leaders of tomorrow.
The endowments are named in tribute to their son, who has shown how one can be successful given the right opportunities. The endowments will benefit students majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM); as well as the Indians Into Medicine Program (INMED™) at UND, which helps Native American students aspire to be health professionals and meet the needs of tribal communities.
The Shegas also hope their gift encourages students to enroll at UND and finish their degree there.
“It is obvious that we lose too many bright young minds from the professional fields as a result of them being unable to navigate the cost hurdles of a university education,” Shega said. “We hope that we, in some small way, help a young person realize her or his dream of entering the medical or STEM field.”
Robin Turner, UND Alumni Association & Foundation director of development for the College of Engineering & Mines, worked with the Shegas to establish this gift in their will.
“This gift is going to have an incredible impact on students for years to come,” Turner said. “Greg and Amy’s generosity is truly inspiring, and giving through their will allows them to make the maximum impact they can.”
Learn more about giving opportunities through the UND Alumni Association and Foundation.
About the Author
Lauren Vetter, ’18, is a Content Specialist at the University of North Dakota Alumni Association and Foundation. The recent graduate of UND and native of Fargo, double majored in Communication and Public Affairs, with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership.