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Legacy Family: Siblings Share a Hilltop Legacy

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The Tawoda siblings (back from left), Tom ’78, Pat and Tim ’81. In front, Therese ’84.

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When Tom “Top” Tawoda ’78 and his parents first talked with a Bradley recruiter during a college day at his high school in Des Plaines, Ill., the electrical engineering graduate probably didn’t envision himself as a trailblazer for two younger siblings.

“This decision was a big deal for the Tawoda family since I would be the first on both sides who would be attending a university,” he said. “I was attracted to the smaller, more personal size of the school. Bradley also had a great reputation as an engineering school, which was a big plus.”

Tom thrived academically and socially on the Hilltop, and younger siblings Tim Tawoda ’81 and Therese Tawoda Waldburger ’84 took notice.

“I was exposed to Bradley as an adolescent and had my mind set on going there,” said Waldburger, an industrial engineering major. “My brothers had terrific friends, memories and a bright future. I wanted that, too, and knew I could find it at Bradley.”

“I didn’t even consider other universities,” Tim Tawoda noted. 

All three were interested in math and science, which led them to engineering, but each chose a different discipline.

“I didn’t want to be an electrical engineer since my brother was already one,” Tim Tawoda recalled. “Mechanical engineering seemed the most relevant and played to my natural inclination to understand how things work.”

While Waldburger originally wanted to be a forest ranger, her father’s reluctance to support that goal and her brothers’ influence led her in a different direction.

“Having one brother as an electrical and the other as a mechanical engineer, I opted for industrial engineering,” she said. “I had heard it was more people-oriented and less focused on design.”

Academic Excellence with a Personal Touch 

The University’s demanding engineering curriculum drew praise from the trio, and each reflected on individual professors who showed care and concern.

“I particularly remember Dr. Rita Newton,” Waldburger said about the emerita professor of industrial engineering who taught for more than 30 years at Bradley. “She was tough and demanding. She called me out that I was not prioritizing my college life and had taken a lackluster approach to class attendance. It was the kick in the pants I needed, so I studied and reorganized my priorities. She believed in me, and that was a huge motivator.” 

Tim Tawoda recalled Dr. Max Wessler ’52, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, and others in his department for their “intellect and determination to make you a worthy recipient of a Bradley diploma.” He also spoke of punching computer cards to run programs “in the middle of the night, because the campus computer was always being used.”

For Tom Tawoda, it was Dr. E. Neville Pickering, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering and technology, saying “He never changed his exceptional teaching style or his dedication to students.”

The Impact of Greek Life

On campus, the younger siblings followed Tom Tawoda’s lead into Greek life. Tim Tawoda joined Delta Upsilon where his brother already was a member, and Waldburger pledged Chi Omega. All three established lasting friendships with fraternity brothers and sorority sisters.

“In the 37 years since I graduated, my fraternity brothers have played a part in every aspect of my life: Weddings, children’s weddings, funerals, birthdays and family vacations,” the eldest Tawoda explained.

Waldburger added, “Last year, I visited Bradley to celebrate the retirement of our sorority cook, employed there 40 years. It was amazing how many alumni showed up to support the event. We had just as much fun as we did 30 years ago.”

Where Are They Now?

Today, Tom Tawoda is an information technology manager for the Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corporation in Idaho Falls, Idaho. “With a degree from Bradley, I have had great career opportunities throughout my life,” he said. “In 37 years, I have never been without a good, challenging and rewarding position.” 

Waldburger worked at General Dynamics and at Qualcomm in San Diego before leaving the workforce to raise her family. From her home in La Jolla, Calif., she acts as an ambassador for Bradley, connecting with prospective students and their parents. She recounts receiving a recent email from one of her husband’s co-workers. The woman’s daughter was interested in Bradley, and Waldburger provided personal insights about the University.

“I was happy to hear that her daughter chose Bradley and her mom said it’s the perfect fit,” she said.

Tim Tawoda, founder and CEO of Synsel Energy, Inc., splits time between homes in Elmhurst, Ill., and Wisconsin. He summed up the family’s feelings toward the University.

“Bradley was very special for three of the Tawoda siblings and our parents,” he said. “It’s where discipline was instilled to compete with other engineering students, and social grace was honed through the interactions of Greek life. The hometown feeling of small, private Bradley also nurtured a bond with classmates — who end up being some of your closest friends for life.”   

—By Bob Grimson ’81