ASU alumnus gives back through physics scholarship, professorship


December 20, 2016

Wally Stoelzel can’t recall Newton’s laws of motion, but he certainly does not regret studying physics at Arizona State University.

“My grandkids often ask me if I am sorry that I studied physics since I only got to teach it a year or so,” said Stoelzel. “I tell them … it was a pleasure to have studied the basis for all the other sciences.” ASU alumnus attends grandson's graduation ASU alumnus Wally Stoelzel (left) attends his grandson Evan’s graduation ceremony at the Colorado School of Mines. Also pictured are Evan’s parents and grandmother. Download Full Image

In 1966, Stoelzel graduated from Arizona State University with a Master of Natural Sciences degree in physics with a goal to pursue a career as a teacher. He accepted a position as the Math and Science Department Chair of the Industrial Training Center for Aramco in Saudi Arabia, which took him across the globe. He taught math and physics to adult students who wanted to pursue science and engineering degrees. In addition, he taught the center’s math and science teachers to help them update their technical backgrounds. 

When his position was eliminated, Stoelzel transferred to the electronic data processing technical group as a system analyst. He learned a variety of programming skills and languages. Some of his engineering projects included providing cost analysis for the Saudi Arabian Government and calculating oil volume in floating roof storage tanks for offloading to tankers. He also worked on a multitude of diverse technical projects during his eight-year Aramco tenure. 

Upon returning to the U.S., Stoelzel became the manager of data processing at the Newspaper Printing Corporation. Then, he became part-owner of a digital equipment software firm. He also started a computer service bureau for accounting services and advertising signage. 

After a couple years, Stoelzel’s businesses dissolved and he returned to his passion of teaching at the University of Texas at El Paso. He taught management information systems, computer science, programming and engineering applications courses. His career changed courses again when he became a portfolio manager for Paine Webber and then Smith Barney-Shearson Lehman-E.F. Hutton.

“Looking back it’s easy to see how my ASU physics background directly contributed to the varied employment opportunities which came my way even during the bad economic downturns,” he said. 

Stoelzel is now retired, but his passion for learning and impacting the world has not come to a halt. He created the Wally Stoelzel Physics Scholarship and the Alan Wager Professorship in Physics Endowment in fond memory of professor Wager, former chair of the Department of Physics, and Glenna Curtis, former department secretary.

Wager recruited Stoelzel for a scholarship when he was a public-school teacher and, later, his graduate assistant, which made it possible for Stoelzel to study physics. Now, he hopes to give back and help relieve students of some of their financial burdens.

“Hopefully the students receiving this scholarship will be able to pursue their studies in physics with less worry,” Stoelzel said. “When times are not good, they’ll realize their physics background will allow them to pursue many vocations which were not evident when they left ASU.”

Andrew Svesko, a graduate student pursuing a doctoral degree in physics, was awarded this scholarship two years in a row. The scholarship has been a significant asset for helping Svesko accomplish his goals.

“My ultimate career goal is to become a professional educator,” Svesko said.. “The Wally Stoelzel Scholarship will help me achieve these goals by offering me the ability to focus more on research and can help pay for travel expenses for conferences and more.”

Thanks to the financial assistance he received during his doctoral program, Svesko now looks forward to one day being able to continue Stoelzel’s legacy of giving back.

“I hope I can give back, and the reason is simple: In order to continue the wheel of progress, future generations of scientists and engineers should be allowed the same opportunities that I have been given,” Svesko said. “Likewise, it’s a duty to give back in any way possible.”

Alexis Berdine

Student writer and reporter, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Outstanding graduate student honored for commitment to community, people


December 20, 2016

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2016 commencement. See more graduates here.

Dominic Santiago Luna says that the greatest lesson his parents taught him was to be successful and then share. He took that to heart as a student in Arizona State University’s School of Public Affairs. He was recognized for this effort with the Ed Pastor Outstanding Graduate Student Award at the Hispanic convocation last week.  Hispanic convocation Dominic Luna Dominic Santiago Luna was honored with the Ed Pastor Outstanding Graduate Student Award at ASU's Hispanic Convocation. Photo: Deanna Dent/ASU Now Download Full Image

“Much of Dominic’s life is about public service and helping out those who are less fortunate and this has been exemplified by his time at ASU,” ASU Senior Vice President Christine Wilkinson said at the ceremony.

While at ASU pursuing his master of public administration, Luna was active in the Graduate and Professional Student Association. He was elected as the assembly representative for the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Through an internship, Luna saw the inner workings of the City of Sierra Vista.

“It was an incredible experience,” he said. “I wish others could observe what these people do. It is truly an engine based on collective effort.”

“The City of Sierra Vista was fortunate to have someone of Dominic's caliber and professionalism working as an intern this past summer. He worked on a variety of projects and made welcome contributions to city operations. More importantly, Dominic demonstrated a true passion and interest in community service,” said Mary Jacobs, assistant city manager for the City of Sierra Vista.

Luna notes that he had some knowledge of how a city works, but that was greatly enhanced by the experience.

“In our line of work, it is just regular people trying to make our communities better. They are the reason the street lights work, that we feel safe. Often that goes unnoticed unless there is a scandal,” he said. “But they didn’t get into this work for the recognition. They want to make a difference.”

Luna created and recorded a video in both English and Spanish to help educate business owners on how to register as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise.

“His desire to reach out to people and help is what makes him so special,” said Laura Wilson, chief procurement officer for the City of Sierra Vista. ”His presence in the Procurement Division reenergized the spirit of what it means to be a community servant. I am excited to see where his accomplishments take him.”

Luna says that one of his most important accomplishments is teaching at Academia del Pueblo at Friendly House, which serves a majority Latino population in central Phoenix. He taught grades 6-8.

“I was able to share what I learned as an undergraduate with students, and hopefully they will translate that into how they follow a path of public service,” he said. “They have so much potential to make a difference in our community.

Luna was inducted into the Pi Alpha Alpha public administration honors society. He plans to apply to law school. His focus is on criminal and constitutional law.

“Seeing so many in our communities struggling, it feels good to be a part of something bigger than myself.”

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions

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