Published: March 18, 2009

The teaching and outreach work of University of Colorado civil engineering Professor Bernard Amadei and his colleagues in the Engineering for Developing Communities program will take a giant leap forward thanks to a $5 million commitment from Mort and Alice Mortenson, and builder M. A. Mortenson Company.

A $500,000 commitment of university matching funds from the office of CU-Boulder Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson puts CU's newly renamed Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities well on its way to becoming self-sustainable for the long term.

Professor Bernard Amadei tackles development challenges in marginalized communities worldwide-challenges such as ensuring safe drinking water for Rwandan orphans in inhospitable environments, or promoting education and economic development in Afghanistan and the West Bank. Amadei pursues sustainable community development from his base at the College of Engineering and Applied Science, where he educates and inspires students to effect positive change in areas such as hygiene and sanitation, civil infrastructure, and power production.

The gift also establishes the endowed Mortenson Chair in Global Engineering for Amadei, whose renowned work has included the founding of humanitarian nonprofit Engineers Without Borders-USA. It will also support undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships, research assistantships, curriculum development, "Earn/Learn" student apprenticeships and other activities of the Mortenson Center.

Overall, the Mortenson gift will advance the Engineering for Developing Communities program objectives in education, research, and service, and promote a broader, more holistic perspective among CU-Boulder engineering students and faculty. It will provide the tools to pursue appropriate and sustainable solutions to the problems of developing communities.

"This generous gift brings together the passion of both the Mortenson family and M. A. Mortenson Company for education and for helping others with our College's values of hands-on learning and addressing global issues," said Dean Robert Davis.

"The Mortenson Center will provide a blueprint for the education of engineers of the 21st century who are called to play a critical role in contributing to peace and security in an increasingly challenged world," Amadei said.

Mort Mortenson, a 1958 civil engineering graduate of CU and chairman of M. A. Mortenson Company, has generously supported his alma mater for many years. Previously, the Mortenson family contributed more than $1 million that has now been designated toward the program. With their gifts they sought to support a CU-Boulder engineering program that represents their personal and business values, and felt endowing the center would be an ideal way to establish a significant legacy.

"Professor Bernard Amadei is an inspiration to anyone who cares about engineering challenges in developing cultures," Mortenson said. "He is a great humanitarian whose passion for educating students and serving developing communities is vital to the success of this program."

Mortenson's eldest son David, executive vice president of M. A. Mortenson Company, feels the goals of the center are in line with the family's values and principles. "We have always been taught the value of working hard and giving back to the community," he said. "The three components of Engineering for Developing Communities-education, research and development, and service/outreach-make it a living, sustainable and vital resource contributing to improving the quality of life worldwide."

Based in Minneapolis with offices in Denver and nationwide, M. A. Mortenson Company has constructed numerous projects on CU's Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs campuses-including Research Center II, the El Pomar Center, the University Memorial Center and the Visual Arts Complex (currently under construction).

An additional benefit of this gift is that Mortenson employees will mentor CU students and collaborate on upcoming sustainable development projects and curriculum activities, bringing their real-world insights into classrooms and developing communities.

"For more than 50 years, M. A. Mortenson Company has been blessed with team members who tackle the great challenges and risk of construction everyday all the while placing our values at the center of everything they do," said Tom Gunkel, president and CEO of M. A. Mortenson Company. "We are very pleased to support a program that seeks to leverage the creativity and compassion of the young engineers of today in order to enrich the lives of those in developing communities."

The Engineering for Developing Communities program, launched in 2004, offers undergraduate and graduate tracks designed to integrate sustainability, appropriate technology, business, public health, and community service into the traditional engineering curriculum. (For more information, see

The Mortenson gift is a vote of confidence in CU's ongoing efforts in sustainable development-tying into the university's strategic goals of transcending geographic boundaries, promoting hands-on learning, and supporting a culture of diversity and engagement. It extends the outreach of CU's highly ranked College of Engineering and Applied Science, which boasts eight specialties ranked among the top 40 in the U.S., according to U.S. News and World Report.