An engineer who helped run two successful transportation companies has made a $4 million gift to the University at Buffalo, his alma mater.
Stephen E. Still of Reston, Va., credited the university with changing his life when he studied civil engineering and earned a bachelor's degree in 1976.
"I have been blessed far beyond my expectation and the origins can be traced back to this very place. From the committed faculty who taught with passion and commitment to the lifelong friends made here, this place was truly transformational," Still said.
University officials announced the gift at a press conference Thursday morning. It will be used for an endowment in support of the Institute for Sustainable Transportation and Logistics. The institute brings together UB's engineering and management schools for work on issues related to a new field of transportation, logistics and supply-chain management.
"We very much look forward to watching all that Stephen Still's gift will bring to UB's engineering students and faculty and to the institute. The future is indeed bright in this field. The transformations that are coming are coming fast and we want to be sure that they are sustainably implemented and create a great benefit for society, regionally, for our state, for the nation and for the planet," said Leisl Folks, dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences.
The institute, which was launched about three years ago, is being renamed the Stephen Still Institute for Sustainable Transportation and Logistics. One of its areas of focus will be autonomous vehicles - a difficult challenge but one that UB and other universities should be trying to solve, said Still.
"If autonomous vehicles can reduce 10,000 fatalities, 20,000, 30,000, that's a challenge that we have to take on, because that technology is available and it has the potential to dramatically reduce traffic accidents and increase safety, and we should embrace it," he said.
Still, 62, grew up in Palmyra, outside Rochester, in a family of modest means, and he said he was able to attend UB almost for free, thanks to a Regents Scholarship and the "great value" that the university provided.
After UB, Still earned master's and doctoral degrees at Princeton University. He worked in route and fleet planning for United Airlines and US Airways for many years, prior to co-founding two private transportation management companies, Seabury Airline Planning Group and Diio.
Still said he sold his stake in Diio last October and in Seabury earlier this year and is now semi-retired.
Still has volunteered and made other smaller gifts for years to UB's engineering school. He also will co-teach a course at UB on transportation analysis.