Gateway donor Michael Kopper

Michael Kopper, right, and his wife, Michele Whitfield, center, with Gateway Technical College President Bryan Albrecht. (Contributed photo/Kenosha News)

KENOSHA — Centrisys Corp. founder and CEO Michael Kopper and wife, Michele Whitfield, are donating $2.85 million to the Gateway Technical College Foundation to support scholarships for students in engineering and manufacturing-related programs.

The donation, the largest-ever private award to Gateway, was announced March 21 during a special ceremony at the regular monthly Gateway board meeting in the newly-renovated Madrigrano Auditorium.

Along with funding scholarships, the funds will provide financial support to the Gateway Promise program, which was established to assist Gateway-bound high school students with tuition and financial support.

A portion of the amount, $1.5 million, was contributed to establish the Kopper Family Fund to support technology programs, and $1.35 million will go to GTC’s Promise program.

In addition, Gateway will honor Kopper with the dedication of the Michael Kopper Auditorium in the newly-renovated S. C. Johnson Integrated Manufacturing Engineering & Technology Center at the Sturtevant campus building, where engineering and advanced manufacturing courses are taught. The dedication is to come in August when the iMET construction is completed.

Kopper noted that he and his wife started a foundation to provide for the education and training of engineers and technical manufacturing specialists as part of a plan to develop trained employees. Centrisys, a manufacturer of decanter centrifuge systems that are sold to municipalities and other organizations globally, is heavily dependent on engineers and technicians.

Kopper said he determined that Gateway could do a better job of the training; therefore, he thought he should donate to support the programs at the technical college.

“Gateway’s vision for education is the same as ours,” Whitfield, Centrisys’ marketing director, said to the audience at the meeting.

She noted that her ultimate goal is to spark an interest in technical education.

“We want to help Gateway to further what they are already doing,” she said.

“Michael’s philosophy and my philosophy is that you have to pay it forward. Michael started his education at a technical college in Germany very much like Gateway at a very young age, and it has helped him in his career success,” Whitfield said. “We believe it’s important to keep manufacturing alive, and the way to do that is through education. We felt the need to give and allow for more educational opportunities.”