Golden generosity

Fall 2022 Inventing tomorrow
A group of alumni smile in front of the football stadium
Jean McCallum (CivE ’59), in turquoise top, travels regularly from Michigan to attend reunion. Here she is with friends at the 2018 50-Year and Golden Medallion Society Reunion. From left to right: Jeanne Truestedt (Education ’67), Horst Truestedt (Physics and Math ’68), George Seetin (Physics ’68), Jan Seetin, Randy Gawtry (Physics ’68), and Tom Hagen (EE ’66).

As the fund has grown, so have the number of students it supports. Katana “Nina” Davannavong was one such student. The computer engineering major, who graduated this past summer, first received the scholarship as a freshman.

“My Golden Medallion Society Scholarship was a huge help because it took a great weight off my shoulders,” she said. “I could funnel all my energy into doing my best in school and not worrying about my finances, or how to pay tuition.”

The first-generation college student from Shakopee, Minn., is now a software engineer who codes, tests, and maintains the mobile apps associated with newly released products in Medtronic’s Cardiac and Vascular Group.

“Since 6th grade, I knew I wanted to be an engineer,” she recalled. “Medtronic gave a demo at my school and that started my dream of wanting to work with medical devices. I chose CSE because it had so much to offer—so many doors for me to open and discoveries to make. I was also around the best of the best, and I was challenged by faculty and my peers.”

Davannavong’s path to becoming the only woman in STEM in her family resonates with McCallum. Although she had an uncle who was a physicist, she had no family members with an engineering background. That didn’t stop McCallum from pursuing the profession— and neither did the lack of women in the field.

“It’s amazing the number of women who pursue engineering now,” she explained. “There were seven in my class, and by spring quarter, only four of us were left.”

McCallum hasn’t stopped giving to the endowment fund she helped start. She, along with many other alumni, have supported the fund each year since making an initial gift in honor of their 50th reunion. Anyone can make a gift to the fund, and as it grows, so do the number of Golden Medallion Scholars.

“Donating to a scholarship is a simple gesture, but the impact on students is huge,” Davannavong said. “There’s plenty of me out there, people with family circumstances that don’t allow them to pursue their dream of going to college and wanting to help others. I am forever grateful to the generosity of strangers—everyone who has ever given to this fund.”

Nina Davannavong