Barbara W. & Thomas W. Benko Scholarship

Number Available: 1
Class: Freshmen, Sophomore, Junior, Senior
Major: CprE, EE, BioE, BME, EnergyE
Amount: $1000

Barb and Tom were born and raised in Chicago, IL and attended the College of Engineering at University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC). Barb and Tom hold a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Engineering. Barb majored in Computer Engineering and Tom majored in Electrical & Computer Engineering. They have been married for over 35 years and live in St. Charles, IL.

Career: Barb started her career in 1979 at AT&T Bell Laboratories, where she worked as a software engineer on AT&T’s first digital telecommunications switching system. In 1983, Barb worked at GCA, where she developed software for a network control system used to automate manufacturing through robotics and machine tools. In 1985, Barb profitably ran her own software consulting business, SofTech Design, Inc. for 3 years, after which she was recruited into Ameritech, for her expertise and leadership in Advanced Intelligent Networks (AIN) technology. It was at Ameritech, that Barb transitioned into management. Barb also held executive level positions at Encyclopeadia Britannica (EB) and Motorola. As Vice President of Online Product Development and Operations at EB, Barb built a new engineering organization chartered with transforming EB’s paper publishing business into an online internet resource of expert knowledge. At Motorola, Barb managed engineering organizations as large as 500 engineers, worldwide wireless network system product lines with P&L’s as large as $500M and the licensing of multi-million dollar intellectual property portfolios. Barb is currently self-employed in a joint consulting business with Tom.

Tom has been self-employed in his own consulting business since 2004. Prior to that he was an officer at Motorola responsible for engineering in their mobile phone division. Prior to joining Motorola, he was an officer at Bell Laboratories leading the Wireless Networks Division, a multi-national organization providing wireless networks worldwide. In this role, Tom launched every new wireless technology network developed at Bell Labs. Over his 24 year tenure at Bell Labs, Tom held numerous executive and senior leadership positions in both the International and US product lines.  Tom joined Bell Labs after completing his Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Tom has been published in International Symposium on Large Engineering Systems, the Bell System Technical Journal and the Bell Labs Record.

SWE: Barb was a recipient of a SWE scholarship when she graduated from high school in 1975.  Barb and Tom are honored to be able to go “full circle” by giving other women an opportunity to pursue an engineering degree with the aid of their SWE scholarship. As life time members of SWE, they anticipate getting more involved with SWE events and programs, as other business, financial management and philanthropic demands lessen.

Other affiliations: Barb served for 5 years as a member of PEO, a women’s philanthropic organization focused on raising money to give underprivileged women an opportunity to pursue a college education. Barb also served for 4 years as co-founder and board member of The Colette A. Miles Foundation, a 501(c3) charity focused on aiding cancer patients and their families in their fight and healing journey.

Scholarship: Barb and Tom created this scholarship in 2016 to be awarded to U.S. born women engineering students pursuing a degree in Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Bioengineering or Energy Engineering at their alma mater, University of Illinois at Chicago.