This week, we spotlight several June School Challenge donors. The June School Challenge is an exciting opportunity for alumni, parents, and friends to make an even bigger impact with their giving. Each of the generous donors below has challenged alumni, parents, and friends to give to their schools, libraries, or student affairs—if donor goals are met, Tim, Mary, Peter, Jennifer, and other generous alumni have pledged to give to the University.

Tim ’87 and Mary Patronik ’88, ’97 MBA


Tim '87 and Mary Patronik '88, '97 MBA


“I couldn’t write a circuit diagram like I used to,” says Tim Patronik ‘87, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and later transitioned into executive management, “but I’m pretty good at solving problems.” He’s never shied away from complex situations, thanks to his engineering education.


His wife Mary Scott Patronik ’88, who earned a BS in Industrial Engineering Management Science and later a Master’s of Management from Kellogg in 1997, also credits her engineering degree for her ability to address challenges when she pursued a career in sales. Engineering “promotes discipline, a structured way of thinking that becomes part of the way you process ideas internally,” says Mary.


Many of Tim and Mary’s classmates also advanced in careers outside of engineering. “I don’t think any of them would trade their engineering background,” says Tim, “because it’s great preparation for industry and any kind of commercial vocation that involves complicated problem-solving.”


The McCormick School of Engineering specializes in a “whole-brain” approach, merging creative thinking with core engineering knowledge, even more so than during Mary and Tim’s time at Northwestern. “It’s so exciting compared to when we went,” says Mary, “when it was very much focused on your particular discipline.”


This is the type of cross-disciplinary preparation they hope today’s McCormick students will gain—and why they choose to support the McCormick Annual Fund.


In addition to supporting McCormick, Tim and Mary sit on a leadership council and participate in an alumni group. “There’s value in being part of the Northwestern community,” says Tim, but going on 30 years after graduation, remaining connected becomes increasingly difficult. “Giving to the University helps us to reconnect.”

Jennifer and Peter Altabef, '12 P, '17 P



Jennifer and Peter Altabef, '12 P, '17 P

Jennifer Altabef’s undergraduate and law education at SMU were made possible through a combination of employment, loans, and scholarship funds. But there were still times when it was a challenge to afford the basic necessities, like groceries.


“That was hard, when you don’t get paid for another four or five days, and you have only some milk and bread.” She and her husband, Peter, who also benefited from scholarship funds, understand that even well prepared, hard working students may need help from time to time.


Jennifer and Peter have had two children attend Northwestern—their daughter, who graduated in 2012 in American Studies, and their son, who plans to graduate next year with a degree in Communications. They hope that their children, and other Northwestern students like them, will never have to choose between succeeding in school and handling an unanticipated hardship, like a stolen laptop or a medical emergency.


The stress caused by such emergencies impairs students’ ability to focus on their studies. So when they read in Northwestern Magazine about the Margo Brown Northwestern Student Emergency Fund, which provides support to students experiencing unforeseen, critical, or catastrophic incidents, they felt compelled to make an endowment gift.


“When you don’t have many resources, you spend a lot of time worrying about not having many resources,” says Jennifer, who serves on the Student Affairs Committee of We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern. “If this fund had been available for me, even in very small amounts, it would have made a difference.”