Engineering a Better Future for SCU Students
Greenie Van Buren ’71, M.S. ’78 remembers the chorus of impressed “oooohs” that came from the other girls in her dorm at Santa Clara when she announced her intention of becoming an engineer during freshman orientation. “I guess in the U.S., very few people expected girls to go into engineering at that time,” she recalls.
Greenie had arrived from Hong Kong just a few weeks earlier. She’d looked at a U.S. map to see which state was closest to China, and a teacher at her all-girls Catholic high school had heard good things about SCU.
“I came here all by myself and Santa Clara helped me build my foundation,” she says, remembering how the school’s International Students’ Club met her ship at the pier in San Francisco to drive her to campus.
She was one of the few international students on campus, and the only woman to earn an engineering degree in her graduating class. “I never went out with the boys in my class—I think they all looked at me as competition,” she says. That is until her sophomore year when she met a handsome mechanical engineering major from Hayward—Donald Van Buren ’70.
“She was always finding excuses to walk past me in the library,” Don now jokes.
After graduation, Don went to Ft. Benning, Georgia, to fulfill his ROTC commitments before heading back to California, where he worked as an engineer, primarily for the Bay Area Quality Management District for more than 25 years. Greenie, meanwhile, applied to an opening posted in SCU’s career services office—for a little “start-up” called Intel Corporation.
Her bosses at Intel talked about “changing the world” with technology. “It really excited me,” she says. “And I’m not sure I would’ve felt prepared without having come to Santa Clara. It was just such a supportive, welcoming atmosphere that made me feel like I could stay in the U.S. and do great things.”
Now retired, the couple is gifting part of their IRA’s required minimum distribution to Santa Clara University toward the new Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation as well as the remainder beneficiary to establish scholarship funds for engineering students. “Everything about Santa Clara has been so positive,” Don says of the decision to give back to their alma mater. Greenie agrees. “I feel I got really lucky coming here,” she says. “Now, I want to help someone else.”