Long before a new institute at UConn bore their name, they were juniors living in McMahon Hall, attending a “bring a date” dinner together.
Donna Samson, a graphic design major from Vernon, Connecticut, and John Krenicki, who studied mechanical engineering and hailed from northern New Jersey, became a couple right away. They both graduated in 1984, married a year later, had three children, and set out on illustrious careers in industry, private equity, and the arts.
And they always knew they wanted to give back to the place where it all began. At UConn, they say, their horizons were broadened, their eyes opened to what else was out there. “We each grew up where we lived in the same house, went to the same school, had the same circle of friends,” says John Krenicki, who estimates that since he and his wife graduated college, their family has moved 15 times. “UConn gave us a willingness to move out, meet new people. It stretched our minds.”
Over the past three decades, the Krenickis have honored their alma mater by establishing endowed professorships in biomedical engineering, genomics and personalized medicine, digital media and design, and chemistry and with scholarships in the schools of Engineering and Fine Arts. When Anne D’Alleva, dean of the School of Fine Arts, and Kazem Kazerounian, dean of the School of Engineering, presented them with the idea for a collaborative institute, they jumped at the opportunity to fund an effort marrying their respective disciplines, giving $5 million to launch the Krenicki Arts and Engineering Institute.