John and Sally Steadman

John and Sally Steadman – Giving Is Good

Investing in UW’s engineering future 

John and Sally Steadman
Throughout their careers, John and Sally Steadman have made their professional passion their personal mission—to support students and to help faculty. The Steadmans are faculty members and administrators whose contributions to the University of Wyoming College of Engineering and Physical Sciences are foundational to where it is today. 

And even though they are now at the University of South Alabama, they continue to make a vital contribution to their former institution. They have supported UW engineering through their philanthropy, including establishing the John and Sally Steadman Endowment – Student Support and the John and Sally Steadman Endowment – Faculty Support, as well as supporting many other funds for almost 60 years.   

Their support of students and faculty is particularly important, as UW’s fundraising priorities are student success and faculty excellence. 

“We think career education is extremely important, particularly engineering education,” says John. “Our focus is on supporting students with endowed scholarships, but we are also very interested in excellence in engineering instruction as well. We have already endowed and will continue to endow funding for faculty who want to improve their classroom teaching. Our priority is to support development of better undergraduate teaching.” 

“Being one of the very few females in most of my classes, I also recognize the need to encourage underrepresented students in STEM fields,” says Sally, “and so that’s who our scholarship at Wyoming is awarded to—underrepresented students pursuing engineering.” 

Originally from Cody, John earned his bachelor’s and master’s in electrical engineering from UW. He then worked for General Dynamics aerospace division in San Diego as a life sciences research engineer. He started working on his Ph.D. at University of California – San Diego in applied electrophysics and finished it at Colorado State University. He then took a tenure-track teaching position at UW. 

John taught at UW for 32 years and served as head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (formerly the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering) and associate dean of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. He retired from UW, but then a headhunter recruited him for the position of professor and dean of engineering at the University of South Alabama. He served there for 18 years and is now retired. 

John says, “We left there (UW) in late July and I started here (South Alabama) on August 1. So there wasn’t any retirement time in between.” He adds with a smile, “So now I’ve retired twice—I’m retired squared.” 

Originally from Veteran, Wyoming, and valedictorian of her class at Lingle High School, Sally earned her bachelor’s in civil engineering from UW, a master’s in mathematics from the University of Denver, and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from UW. 

Between her bachelor’s and master’s, Sally taught at Eastern Wyoming Community College and found that she loved it. Between her master’s and Ph.D., she worked in government research labs such as Bureau of Reclamation, the Solar Energy Research Institute (now National Renewable Energy Lab), and the Computing Center at the Colorado School of Mines. That’s where she and John met. They married and moved back to UW. 

Sally taught engineering at UW while she worked toward her Ph.D. She also held administrative positions throughout the college, including advising the Minority Engineering  Society and founding the UW Engineering Summer Program in 1988, which offers high school students throughout the state the opportunity to have hands-on experiences in engineering fields and recruits future engineering students to UW.

“One of the things that I’m the proudest of and feel good about is that I started the Engineering Summer Program,” Sally says. 

When Sally and John moved to South Alabama, Sally served in a number of positions throughout the university, many of them outside of engineering, as the university has rules against nepotism. “I’ve had a host of titles,” she says wryly. She was coordinator for the Honors College, but since John’s retirement she’s moved back into the College of Engineering. 

SteadmanBoth John and Sally have spent their lives serving their communities and the engineering profession as a whole on a national level. John has particularly focused on engineering licensure, serving on the Wyoming Licensing Board, ABET Engineering Accreditation, president of IEEE USA, and president of the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors. Sally served on both the chapter and the national Mortar Board and Tau Beta Pi organizations, serving as president of Mortar Board and the Mortar Board Foundation. Both organizations have recognized her as an outstanding advisor. She also played recreational softball throughout her life and plays French horn for the Baldwin Pops.

Sally says, “The thing that stands out— both for Wyoming, which is often a shock for people, and here at South Alabama—is how well our student organizations do. We’re pretty excited that we got the best chapter award at Wyoming (as well as multiple times at South Alabama).” 

“We try to promote the engineering profession in various ways as well as trying to supply the profession with more engineers,” John says. This is really important right now, as there is a lack of students coming into the engineering profession and engineering firms are having a hard time hiring graduates. “That’s a nationwide problem,” John says.

They both miss Wyoming and the friends they made here. Sally says, “It’s just a culture—it’s a different culture at Wyoming.”

“I’ll tell you—I miss my friends,” says John. “The Wyoming Engineering Society and all those friends from all across the state—those are all things that we miss. The relationships that we built were wonderful, and I enjoyed the teaching there. I also enjoyed the research opportunities.” He adds, wryly, “What we don’t miss is winter weather.” 

“There were just people across the spectrum in Wyoming, and the small size of the state, you feel like you’re heard,” John adds. “Across the state, we made many trips to the various high schools, promoting having students consider engineering as what they would study at UW.” 

Both John and Sally have worked so hard supporting current and future engineers, but they wish that more people would get involved. “I just think that being really involved community-wise is really very important for the growth of each individual, as well as growth for your organization,” says John. “I get a bit concerned that our students are not engaged with the community enough.”

John adds, “I would like people to think about getting engaged, getting involved, giving back if they’ve got the resources. To do so makes you feel good.”