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Jared Bayne test drives his robot in the robotics lab. Bayne, a 2009 SCE alumnus, credits Dilks with helping him obtain student leadership roles and become part of the U.S. Navy's Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate program.

A generous commitment

Advisor Debby Dilks takes payroll deduction to create engineering scholarships

Growing up in rural Missouri, Debby Swinney (now Dilks) remembers her parents talking about the importance of a college education. Her father, Martin Swinney, had concluded his formal education at eighth grade, but he wanted better opportunities for his daughter.

Following her parents’ guidance, Dilks obtained a bachelor’s degree and joined the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering (SCE) as a student advisor in 1984. Amazed at how education, mentorship and scholarships change students’ lives, Dilks later took a payroll deduction to create The SCE Faculty/Staff Scholarship. Other faculty and staff members contributed to the fund, which supports SCE students from all disciplines. She also has taken payroll deductions to create scholarships in honor of her late mother and father.

“To me, the best way to honor the memory of someone you love is to help someone else in that person’s name,” said Dilks, who now serves as project manager and advisor to undergraduate Computer Science and Electrical Engineering students and UMKC’s chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. “If you spend money, you want to see it used for something really meaningful – something that will make a difference in someone’s life.”

In honor of Dilks’ mother, The Doris Markham Swinney Women’s Engineering Scholarship provides $1,000 to a full-time female freshman engineering student. For more details about this endowed scholarship, visit http://sce.umkc.edu/outreach/sce_scholarships.aspx.

In honor of Dilks’ father, The Martin Ashton Swinney Memorial Fund provides $1,000 to a full-time undergraduate engineering (preferably Electrical and Computer Engineering) student. For Dilks’ birthday in May, her husband, Elden Dilks, added $13,000 to endow the scholarship. For more information about the scholarship, visit http://sce.umkc.edu/outreach/sce_scholarships.aspx.


An inspiring mentor

The scholarship helped Ian Ramsey, a junior Computer Science and Electrical Engineering student by reducing his tuition and improving his resume. Ramsey believes it helped him attain a research internship position at Wayne State University in Detroit, where he researched how cars could utilize wireless computer networks to enhance traffic safety. 

“I deeply appreciate Debby Dilks’ generosity in awarding me this scholarship and guiding my education,” Ramsey said. “Debby Dilks is such a sweet person. She’s an awesome listener, and just makes you feel important and more confident after you’ve spoken with her. And of course, that's the perfect personality for a college advisor.”

Jared Bayne, a 2009 SCE alumnus, credits Dilks with helping him obtain student leadership roles and become part of the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate program.

“She pushed me to get out of my comfort zone a lot,” said Bayne, who obtained a bachelor of science degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a master of science degree in Electrical Engineering. “I had to learn how to conduct meetings of 60 or more people and run organizations of even more. I traveled with Debby to many schools for recruitment presentations, went to robotics competitions and even found myself giving a lecture to all of my professors about robotics for the weekly seminar.”

Since Dilks joined SCE 26 years ago, much has changed. However, one thing has remained constant throughout each graduating class of students.

“From the time students arrive to their senior year, you see them transform,” Dilks said. “I love seeing students’ excitement when they’re ready to graduate with a job offer. What you’ll hear unanimously, is that faculty and staff members feel like they make a difference.”

Posted: November 1, 2010

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"I deeply appreciate Debby Dilks' generosity in awarding me this scholarship and guiding my education. Debby Dilks is such a sweet person. She's an awesome listener, and just makes you feel important and more confident after you've spoken with her. And of course, that's the perfect personality for a college advisor."

Ian Ramsey
Junior, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering