Robert C. Greenheck, Eng '50
Bob Greenheck is a very successful engineer of fans. He’s also a very supportive fan of engineering education.
His company, Greenheck Fan Corp., is the world’s leading manufacturer of ventilation equipment, generating annual sales of more than $500 million. Through a $5 million donation to Marquette, Bob established an endowed professorship, the Robert C. Greenheck Chair in Engineering Design, and funded the Greenheck Engineering Lab, which features a state-of-the-art, closed-loop wind tunnel.
“The engineering knowledge I acquired at Marquette was a critical element in the success of Greenheck Fan,” Bob says. “Without it, I would not have been able to design and develop the products that drove our future success.”
Those include the ventilation products hidden behind walls or on hospital roofs, office buildings, hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, schools, industrial plants and other commercial buildings. You typically don’t see them, but if they stopped doing their quiet work of moving air in, out and around buildings, you’d quickly notice conditions becoming a lot less pleasant.
Greenheck Fan began in 1947 as a sheet metal shop operated by Bob and his brother, Bernie, in Schofield, Wis. From the start, Bob and Bernie were committed to growth through innovation in engineering, seeking new ways to make ventilation equipment quieter, easier to install and maintain, higher performing, and more energy efficient.
Though most of the company’s manufacturing still takes place at Schofield — where the once-tiny shop employs 2,600 people in more than 1.5 million square feet of manufacturing space — Greenheck now has assembly facilities in five additional U.S. states, as well as China and Mexico. Its flagship ventilation products are sold in 35 countries.
It’s very much a 21st-century model of success, rooted in engineering excellence but also encompassing other disciplines. With the establishment of the Greenheck Chair in the College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, Bob is helping transform Marquette’s curriculum to foster a similar spirit of entrepreneurship in the next generation of engineers.
“Learn everything you can about engineering,” Bob tells Marquette students. “But don’t stop there. Consider going on to increase your knowledge in finance, marketing and communication. You’re the ones who are going to run our industries, but only if you’re trained to do it.”
Fueled in part by Greenheck’s example and generous financial support, Marquette’s College of Engineering is aggressively working to transform engineering education by emphasizing multidisciplinary, market-driven design and problem-solving skills in addition to technical proficiency. The goal is to create graduates who can hit the ground running and contribute to product and process innovation from day one of their careers.
All, of course, while bringing into the professional world the qualities unique to a Jesuit education.
“My Marquette experience went beyond the professional knowledge it provided,” Bob says. “The values, association and bonds formed with fellow students and faculty have guided me throughout my lifetime.”