“Engineering used to be described as a calling, to be undertaken with passion and intensity,” said Tom Delimitros, who applied that philosophy to his own career in industry and as a venture capitalist investing in high-tech companies.
“Engineers are at the forefront in creating value in our society. I want to see many more young people thinking about an engineering career,” Delimitros said.
“We need more scholarships and fellowships to attract the brightest students.”
To that end, Tom and his wife, Jeannette, established an endowed fellowship in Materials Science & Engineering that supports its first student this year.
Raised in Seattle, Delimitros was both a “gadget-happy kid” and a talented violinist/concert master of the Lincoln High School orchestra. Unsure whether to study engineering or music, he enlisted in the Army Chemical Corps to get away and figure out what he wanted to do.
“I realized I wasn’t good enough for a career as a violinist, and I liked
science, so gadgets won and I enrolled at UW to study engineering,” he said.
A talk by Professor Jim Mueller convinced him that ceramics was an up-and-coming field, so he gravitated to materials science and earned his BS in 1963 and MS in 1966.
At Boeing he helped develop rain erosion coatings for the SST. His career took off when a friend in New York offered him a position at a company developing electronic ceramics. More doors opened and he gained experience with companies producing specialty chemicals for oil field operations and water treatment plants. During his 14-year sojourn back East, Delimitros added to his skill set, earning an MBA at Harvard.
By 1979 he was president and CEO of Magma Corporation, a Houston-based producer of specialty and oil field chemicals, which he grew to a $100-million company. Then came a move to Dallas as a general partner in a venture capital firm. By 1987 he was a founding general partner of AMT (Advanced Materials Technology) and an investor in high-tech companies. He is now largely retired, though serves on several corporate boards.
Delimitros never let geographic distance get in the way of engagement
with his alma mater. He chairs MSE’s advisory board and helped raise funds to build Mueller Hall. Each year he speaks to an MSE class on ethics in engineering work. He served on the Campaign for Washington volunteer committee in the late 1980s, on Engineering’s executive committee for Campaign UW, and for the past three years chaired the selection committee for the college’s annual Diamond Awards program recognizing outstanding alumni.
“Engineering offers a great skill set for self-expression that can take you in many directions,” Delimitros affirmed. “I see our fellowship as a vehicle for that. You can make things happen if you have passion, enthusiasm, and commitment.” In that regard, he says, “being an engineer can be just as good as being a musician.”
Delimitros now will apply his passion and enthusiasm to help keep the beat going on the University level as a new board member of the UW Foundation.
UW Department of Materials Science & Engineering
phone: (206) 543-2600
fax: (206) 543-3100