College of Engineering News Room
The Balter Family is Bullish on Supporting Engineering Student Success
By Brad Stager
That Gene Balter finds himself in a position to support today’s students by funding an endowed scholarship is in itself a testimony to the value of the education he received at the University of South Florida College of Engineering on the way to graduating with a Bachelor of Science in 1977.
“I’ve been employed since I got out of school and I’ve done very well in my career and I owe a lot of that success to the education I received at USF,” says Balter. “I want to give something back for a rewarding career and a good life for me and my family.”
Supporting student success at the College of Engineering is an ongoing effort of Balter’s that began with contributing to fund scholarships on an annual basis. Working with the College’s development staff, Balter and other family members established an endowment to fund the Balter Family Scholarship that financially supports full-time junior and senior undergraduates who are majoring in Civil and Environmental Engineering, in perpetuity.
The scholarship’s focus on supporting Civil and Environmental Engineering students reflects Balter’s educational experience at USF, though at the time the program was known as Structures, Materials, and Fluids.
When Balter graduated he had already secured a job with Greiner Engineering in his hometown of Tampa and was ready to help them design roads. A first lesson in career building awaited him when he showed up to begin working with the company’s roadway design group.
“Their road work had dried up so they asked me if I’d be interested in helping out with the airport planning group,” says Balter, who currently works for HDR, Inc., an engineering design firm headquartered in Omaha, NE. that works on major infrastructure projects worldwide.
From there, Balter’s career took off to work on airport projects throughout the United States and the Caribbean, as well as other transportation-related work including roads, bridges and marine construction projects. Balter says being flexible and responding positively to the opportunity he was presented with made a difference early in his career. It is a point he has often made to students as an advisor to the USF chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
“The more flexibility you have in what you are willing to do in a career, that’s a bigger benefit to your employer,” says Balter, who also cites flexibility in relocating for work as another element of a diverse and rewarding career. He says he found a receptive audience among the students who wanted to learn about working as a professional engineer.
“A lot of what we were doing was getting them ready for the real world; how to find a job and how to be successful in a job.”
According to Balter, College of Engineering graduates are finding success and making contributions to the STEM workforce, so he wants to help ensure the flow of talent continues.
“I have worked with people from some of the most renowned engineering schools in the country and in my opinion USF graduates hold up just fine against those other students, so I really believe that we have a pretty darn good quality of education that the College of Engineering is providing and people should be proud of that, and help support it so that it gets even better.”
Even as his own career took him to Charleston, SC and now Louisville, KY, Balter found different ways of serving USF as his responsibilities and perspective as an engineer grew, such as his tenure on the College of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Board.
“Being on the Dean’s advisory board really kept me in the know on what was going on within the college of engineering,” says Balter, who also served in leadership roles of the Engineering Alumni Society and on the board of directors of the USF Alumni Association.
“I enjoyed serving on the university alumni association board; you get to meet a lot of good people from all over.” Balter and many of his fraternity brothers at USF also supports the C. Brad Haughn Memorial Phi Gamma Delta Scholarship through the USF Foundation.
Gene Balter is not the only member of his family to graduate from the College of Engineering, and others have earned degrees in different disciplines from USF.
His son Daniel has a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering (2007), and daughter Anne Atalay has a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering (2012), while her husband Fikret Atalay has a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering (2005). Balter’s other daughter Becky received a Master of Arts degree in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling (2009) and wife Susan, who served as a reserve deputy for 23 years with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice (1981).
To learn more about how to include USF Engineering in your Legacy Plans, please contact Karen Romas, Director of Development at 330-696-2379 or email.