SWE for Life Scholarship Virginia Counts and Betty Irish

Virginia Counts

SWE for Live V CountsVirginia Counts, Ph.D., is a Senior Program Manager for Medtronic, Inc., the global leader in medical technology. She manages complex projects for the Cardiac Vascular business unit. Virginia has been recognized with Medtronic’s highest award for this work, Medtronic’s Star of Excellence, on multiple projects.  While Virginia was SWE President, she worked in the Office of Workplace Inclusion, where she studied health care disparities and employee retention issues. Prior to joining Medtronic, Virginia worked for an aerospace company where she gained a broad base of experience in new product development, manufacturing, and information technology.

Virginia has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, a master’s degree in industrial engineering, and now a Doctor of Philosophy in sustainable engineering from Arizona State University (ASU). A certified Black Belt and Master Black Belt, Virginia has supported numerous Lean Sigma projects throughout her career. She is a registered Mechanical Engineer in the state of Arizona and a PMI PMP. Most recently, she has become a certified coach, both as a CTI CPCC and an ICF ACC.

Virginia has been involved with SWE for over thirty-five years and has held various positions in the Arizona State University (ASU), and Phoenix Section, Sonora Region and Board of Directors.  Her decade long service on the SWE BOD includes Region Director, three terms as the Speaker of the Council and Director of Education prior to becoming President in FY09. In 1997, Virginia received the Phoenix Section’s Outstanding Member Service Award. As a dedicated diversity and inclusion advocate, she has also been recognized with a unique award for this effort from Medtronic’s Tempe Campus.

She was recognized as one of the most 48 intriguing women of Arizona in a book celebrating Arizona’s 100th anniversary as a state.  She has served her local community as a board member of Gabriel’s Angels, a 501c3 providing pet therapy to at-risk children, on the Board of Overseers for the Phoenix Symphony and as a member of her homeowner’s association board.

In her spare time, Virginia enjoys traveling, especially to warm climates to scuba dive and walk on the beach. She regularly hikes in the Phoenix mountain preserves, cycles to work occasionally, and takes ballet classes at the School for Ballet Arizona. Virginia is working to raise her miniature schnauzer, Sophia, to be a well behaved, loving dog, which is turning out to be quite a task.


Betty Irish

SWE for Life B IrishBetty Irish is a retired construction professional in the Phoenix, AZ Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) industry. Betty’s work experience includes mechanical system design and construction, focused primarily on hi-tech, industrial, semiconductor and healthcare facilities.  Betty retired as a project manager in the In-Plant Services Department of Comfort Systems USA Southwest, a leading HVAC construction service provider in Chandler, AZ.  Prior to entering the construction industry, she worked in mechanical engineering and design with CH2MHill, Jacobs Engineering and Professional Consulting Engineers. She is a life member and Fellow in the Society of Women Engineers.  Betty holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from ASU and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Indiana University.

In August 2014, while still employed as a fulltime project manage at Comfort Systems, Betty began her “encore career” as a Faculty Associate at ASU in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering – Del E. Webb School of Construction (DEWSC).  As a Faculty Associate in the DEWSC, she instructs the CON 345 Mechanical Systems class to educate ASU’s construction management students about the world of HVAC design and construction. Upon retiring from Comfort System in November 2016, Betty continued and expanded her instructional role at ASU to accommodate the growing enrollment in the Construction Management program. In addition to her role as a Faculty Associate, she also serves on the DEWSC Executive Advisory Board to develop, improve and grow the relationship between the HVAC industry and the ASU students.

For over 30  years, Betty has served SWE as an officer, leader and committee member in ASU Student Section, Phoenix Section, Region B and Society levels.  She has also served on the Council of Section Representatives (CSR), Council of Representatives (COR), National Convention Planning Committee (1991 and 1999), Strategic Planning Committee, Society Nominating Committee and Government Relations and Public Policy Committee.  Betty also served on the CSR-COR transition team during SWE’s critical reorganizational years.

In her retired spare time, Betty enjoys Bikram Hot Yoga four days a week and golf two days a week.  The rest of her time is spent constantly maintaining and beautifying her back yard and cruising around in her Corvette. She is the proud mother of two female cats, affectionately named “Crimson and Clover”

SWE for Life Scholarship

Virginia and Betty first met each other during their freshman year at ASU. The two formed a fast friendship when Betty saw Virginia crying in the halls of the mechanical engineering building after a low test score, and they have encouraged each other to achieve their full potential ever since. Engineering school was a challenge for both Betty and Virginia. In fact, Virginia says she liked 1st semester calculus so well she took it three times.

Inspired by other seasoned SWE members, Virginia and Betty began investigating how to endow a scholarship to support SWE members pursuing a mechanical engineering degree. During a very short window of opportunity, Medtronic offered a two for one match on donations, and Virginia quickly jumped on this chance to create an endowment. SWEster Betty agreed to join in without hesitation. It was important to both that the criteria for the scholarship included SWE members studying mechanical engineering who didn’t have perfect grades. The Virginia Counts – Betty Irish SWE for Life Endowed Scholarship was endowed in 2015 and first awarded in the fall of 2017.

Number Available: 1
Class: Sophomore,  Junior, Senior, Graduate, Re-Entry, Non-Traditional
Major: ME preferred
Amount: $1,500