MSU Alumnus leaves 4 million to College of Engineering

Earlier this month, MSU alumnus Bill Wursts, who graduated in 1961 with a master’s degree in electrical engineering, left $4 million to the university to be used as matching funds for the Norm Asbjornson Innovation Center. Through this funding, Wurst’s estate intends to assist in promoting education and innovation in the College of Engineering. Wurst passed away in June 2014 at the age of 77.

“His intent for this gift was to give to the greatest needs of the College of Engineering,” said Jackie Sather, senior director of development for the MSU Alumni Foundation.

“This new complex will serve many engineering [students] as well as students from across campus, not only today but well into the future. His gift will further assist with the development of the space such as labs, classrooms and student centers in the building,” Sather said. She continued, saying the gift will be used “to answer the demands and growth of the engineering department and to ensure future success of the program, supporting efforts to develop the new Norm Asbjornson Innovation Center meets this request.”

The Norm Asbjornson Innovation Center is funded through a $50 million donation gifted by Winifred, Mont. native and MSU alumnus Norman Asbjornson and is projected to be completed by the fall of 2018.

Born in Whitefish, Mont., he completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees at MSU. Wurst began working for Hewlett-Packard in 1963, where he would stay for 30 years before retiring in 1992.

Following Wurst’s passing, his wife Edith and their children coordinated with the MSU Alumni Foundation and decided that the gift would be used as matching funds for the Norm Asbjornson Innovation Center.

“Our alumni and friends who are donors to Montana State University come from all walks of life. They have shown commitment and are passionate about MSU’s continued success,” Sather said “Many give annually to the university to help support the students, faculty and programs. Some set up endowments to offer support in perpetuity.  One venue of giving is for donors to name MSU as a benefactor to their estate in their will.”

She continued, “Donors decide where their money goes – where they want to leave their legacy. That is what Mr. Wurst did. Over the past several years, Mr. Wurst set up three scholarships for College of Engineering students and knew that for his final gift, he wanted to do something for the entire College.”  

Wurst founded a scholarship for MSU students in 1994 in electrical and computer engineering using matching funds from Hewlett-Packard. Wurst more recently added scholarships for students in Flathead and Lake counties.

Sather added that MSU intends to honor Wurst for his donation, saying that College of Engineering Dean Brett Gunnink will work with Wurst’s family in order to determine naming opportunities for the new complex that will best honor Wurst and meet the vision of the family.

For further information, contact Jackie Sather at jackie.sather@msuaf.org or using 994-6766.