Apps to Apes: A College of Engineering Ignite Change Event

The Faris Family Education Center at KidZooU provided the perfect setting for the College’s “Apps to Apes” event.
The Faris Family Education Center at KidZooU provided the perfect setting for the College’s “Apps to Apes” event.

On October 30, what traditionally is known as “Mischief Night” was filled with nothing but treats for the 40 alumni, students and staff in attendance at the College of Engineering’s “From Apps to Apes” Ignite Change event at the Philadelphia Zoo. Hosted by alumnus Richard “Dick” Faris ’69 CE, ’70 MSCE and his wife Marilyn, KidZooU served as the perfect backdrop for this special evening. Guests enjoyed crisp fall temperatures while socializing outdoors, and then moved inside to visit with a variety of zoo residents before gathering for dinner in the Faris Family Education Center.  

Owls, budgies and macaws, snakes, spiders and skinks were not the only attractions waiting indoors. A team of Electrical and Computer Engineering students was present to share the Philadelphia Zoo Android app being designed for their senior capstone project. The app supports the Philadelphia Zoo’s innovative ZOO360 program where animals are free to roam in specially designed overhead walkways. The students, who have been mentored by Mr. Faris, developed a social media inspired app that will encourage visitors to share the current location of popular zoo animals using their smartphone’s GPS for easy tracking. The result will be a more interactive experience that also will present opportunities for social media sharing by visitors.

Gary A. Gabriele, Drosdick Endowed Dean, College of Enginereering; Richard Faris ’69 CE, ’70 MSCE; Villanova University President The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, ’75 CLAS; and Marilyn Faris.
Gary A. Gabriele, Drosdick Endowed Dean, College of Enginereering; Richard Faris ’69 CE, ’70 MSCE; Villanova University President The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, ’75 CLAS; and Marilyn Faris.

After taking in the sites and visiting with students, guests enjoyed an exceptional four-course meal and a warm welcome from Mr. Faris, who shared the joy he felt in bringing together his “two favorite loves— the Philadelphia Zoo and the College of Engineering.” Faris also explained how his commitment to children is reflected in the contributions he has made to both. “The Faris Family Education Center is designed with special needs children in mind,” he noted. Encouraging disadvantaged youth to pursue engineering is another of his priorities. In the spring of 2013, Faris committed $200,000 to establish The Faris Family Endowed Fund for Engineering Outreach, which supports the College’s community outreach initiatives to raise awareness of the importance of engineers and engineering among teachers and students in grades K–12 in the Philadelphia region.  

Following Faris’s introduction, Drosdick Endowed Dean of the College of Engineering, Gary A. Gabriele, was invited to speak to recent developments in the College and his vision for the future of engineering education. Before doing so, he took the opportunity to laud the accomplishments of the evening’s host. Dean Gabriele noted that Faris’s Primavera Systems Inc.—founded with partner Joel Koppleman in 1983 and acquired by Oracle Corporation in 2008—is the most widely used project management software in the world.  He explained the ways in which Faris has since shared his entrepreneurial expertise with Villanova students, serving as a speaker and mentor to a new generation of engineers. In September, Faris was recognized with the Engineering Alumni Society’s 2014 Carl T. Humphrey Memorial Award for his professional achievements. In November, he will serve as the keynote speaker for the College’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Day.

Computer Engineering seniors Kevin Yeom, James Spedick, Matthew Doyle and Emily Kossler (far right), with alumnus Gene Alessandrini ’86 EE and his wife Gina.
Computer Engineering seniors Kevin Yeom, James Spedick, Matthew Doyle and Emily Kossler (far right), with alumnus Gene Alessandrini ’86 EE and his wife Gina.

After recognizing Faris, Dean Gabriele addressed his commitment to continuing the development of the “most innovative engineering program in the country.” He highlighted the College’s foray into flipped classrooms, unmatched opportunities for undergraduate research, the success of the engineering entrepreneurship program, student participation in the international RobotX Challenge, and the growth of its PhD program. The Dean also reminded the audience that the College exceeds the national average for the percentage of women in our student body and among our full-time faculty.  

The evening concluded with inspirational words from University President The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, ’75 CLAS who acknowledged the College of Engineering’s role in moving Villanova forward. “The College plays a major part in taking the University from being a master’s level institution to a research level university.” He credited faculty, saying: “Our teacher-scholars are zealous in research and deeply passionate in sharing knowledge with students. That intersection of teaching and research will only strengthen what is already an exceptional undergraduate experience.”

Since launching For the Great Great®: The Villanova Campaign to Ignite Change just one year ago, the University has raised $375millionof its $600 million goal. For its part, the College of Engineering’s goal is $40 million, of which $27.4 million has been raised. Alumni and friends are encouraged to review the College’s progress and priorities by visiting the campaign website. To learn how you can help the College advance even further in its strategic campaign goals, contact Director of Development Cynthia Rutenbar at Cynthia.Rutenbar@Villanova.edu.