The path to becoming vice chairman of GE and president and CEO of GE Energy led John Krenicki ’84 ’07H through the University of Connecticut, where he met his future wife, Donna ’84, and developed a passion for engineering and science.
Today, that passion is focused on providing cleaner, smarter and more affordable energy to a world yearning for advances in this area. Overseeing more than 12,000 engineers, 70,000 other employees and a $40-billion business, Krenicki is on the leading edge of technology that will transform the way we create and utilize energy.
To help the UConn School of Engineering move forward with transformational research of a different kind, the Krenickis recently made a $750,000 gift to create the John and Donna Krenicki Professorship in Biomedical Engineering.
Philanthropic supporters of the University from the year they graduated, the couple has contributed major gifts to promote sustainable energy initiatives, art history and graphic design. Now, through their professorship support, they are highlighting the vital importance of engineering pedagogy and research.
“An engineering education teaches discipline and provides a sense of confidence in decision-making,” he says. “Engineering is really the heart and soul of GE, and it is a great foundation for a career in law, medicine, business or any other field.”
Dean Mun Y. Choi of the School of Engineering says that the couple’s gift will enable the school to move forward in areas of engineering science that complement existing strengths and also have the potential to dramatically improve health care.
“Biomedical engineering is the new frontier of science, helping us to better understand, prevent, and treat diseases,” Choi says. “We are on the precipice of tremendous advances in artificial limbs, cancer detection, synthetic retinas, robotic surgery, traumatic brain injury treatment, and a host of other applications, across all engineering disciplines.”
More than 40 researchers in the School of Engineering already collaborate on biomedical engineering projects in Storrs and at the UConn Health Center in Farmington, including breast cancer imaging, bone regeneration and tissue engineering. Because of an increased focus in biomedical engineering by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, Choi thinks the Krenicki gift will enable the University to better compete for national challenge grants and other external research funding. These, in turn, will enable UConn to recruit and retain outstanding researchers in this area.
Choi believes the gift will even go beyond that, helping to sustain the future of the biomedical engineering field.
“Through this professorship, we will also be able to support undergraduate- and graduate-level research, train the next generation of biomedical engineers, and recruit graduate students working toward a joint Ph.D./M.D., with an emphasis on attracting underrepresented students to the school.”
The Krenickis share the dean’s vision. They see the gift as a way to move not only the field, but also the School of Engineering, forward.
“In terms of New England public institutions, UConn is outstanding,” Krenicki says. “But we want to see it move up in the national rankings, with the capability to attract world-class faculty, produce top-quality research and really become a destination school for the country and the world.”
He believes the connection between his success in business and UConn is clear, and giving back is natural for the couple.
“I met my wife at UConn. My extended family is packed with UConn alumni. We have roots there, and we’re very proud of this place.”