Engineering Alumnus Creates Investment in the Future

summer 2013 | Article By Matt Roberts

Steve Dehmlow By 2018, the U.S. will have over 1.2 million unfilled jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) — mostly high-wage, recession-proof employment opportunities. Yet 38 percent of college students who start a STEM major do not graduate with that degree.

Without a strong foundation in math and science from elementary and secondary school, educators say, students are unprepared to train for and pursue careers in STEM fields.

Steve Dehmlow (E ’78) is committed to turning these numbers around by investing in the Tulane University Center for K-12 STEM Education at the School of Science and Engineering. Dehmlow and his wife, Shirley Richardson Dehmlow (NC ’77, B ’78), gave $25,000 to establish the K-12 Education Outreach and Excellence Endowed Fund in 2010. By 2014, the couple will have committed $100,000 to the fund, which provides direct support for STEM-education initiatives in local schools.

The Dehmlows’ generosity enables the expansion of the center’s K-12 STEM programs such as Tulane Science Scholars, which provides hands-on learning and course credit to talented high school students, and Core Element, which offers training and resources to local teachers. The center also encourages high school girls to pursue engineering and orthopedics through the Perry Initiative.

“Creating the endowed fund for these initiatives supports the sustainability of these efforts, solidifying the vision of our outreach work and cementing a cornerstone of the School of Science and Engineering’s mission,” says Assistant Dean for K-12 Outreach Annette Oertling.

Dean Nicholas Altiero says the school is committed to inspiring young people to pursue careers in STEM fields and preparing them for success.

“Steve and Shirley Dehmlow are helping to make that possible. We are deeply grateful for their strong commitment to STEM education,” Altiero says.

The chief executive officer of Synergy55 Inc., Steve Dehmlow is the third generation in his family to run the specialty plastics and chemical transportation business. Dehmlow graduated with a degree in chemical engineering and started his career with Shell Chemical Company. He met Shirley after their time at Tulane while she was working for Exxon Corp.

For more than 60 years, the Dehmlow family business has contributed to the wave of advances in technology changing the way we live, work and play. However, what the Dehmlows understand is that for workers in this economy to benefit from innovation, they must have the knowledge and skills to effectively perform in these jobs.

“We are always looking for highly educated, technically competent people, and it can be difficult to fill these positions,” Dehmlow says.

Steve Dehmlow joined the School of Science and Engineering advisory board in 2004 when his daughter Marta (LA ’08) enrolled at Tulane. The Dehmlows hope their generosity will inspire others to contribute to this special fund supporting the education of future engineers and scientists.

“Our family has long supported educational programs, and Dean Altiero’s insight helped us connect the dots to find a great way to support Tulane and the recovery of New Orleans,” Dehmlow says.

Matt Roberts is a writer in the Office of Development

School of Science and Engineering, 201 Lindy Boggs Center, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5764