BY MATTHEW CICHOWICZ
Two months before graduating in 2010, senior business major Amanda Werkmeister died suddenly and unexpectedly of a rare heart disease. The passing of such a popular student, who had been Homecoming Queen the previous fall and was a regular volunteer with her Delta Zeta sisters, stunned friends and family.
Her older brother, Adam Werkmeister '07, does what he can to honor the memory of his sister and only sibling. As a member of the President's Council, which comprises donors who give $1000 or more a year to the university, Werkmeister contributes to a scholarship in Amanda's name at their alma mater.
"They took it upon themselves to feel that each of their students is a member of a family, and for the president of Robert Morris to show up at a funeral and console the family of a deceased one speaks immensely to me," Werkmeister says. "They really do care." Although Werkmeister admits he came to the university as a nervous young student, he now has a big job at Bechtel, managing letters of credit granted by the Federal Reserve for the defense contractor's naval reactors program. The funds he manages are used to install the nuclear reactors that power Navy ships and submarines and to train sailors who operate the reactors. Responsible for managing potentially billions of dollars, Werkmeister plays a crucial role in making the fleet nuclear-powered and safely operated.
"Anything I do directly impacts the U.S. Navy," he says, "so if I mess up, I could be messing up pretty big. The sailors and everybody else could be at risk. It is a very important job that we all have at my company, and we all take pride in it." Werkmeister has also been working as project lead on a development to employ automatic invoicing software systems for his company. Although he graduated with a degree in accounting and works as a cash manager for Bechtel, Werkmeister credits his present involvement in information technology to his interest in computers, which he says was only enhanced by his time at RMU.
As an undergraduate, Werkmeister became a student supervisor for ResNet, an IT organization that helps resident students with computer problems. The on-campus help desk at the time was mostly busy with faculty and staff problems, so Werkmeister and the other founding members of ResNet borrowed chairs, desks, and office furniture the other departments weren't using, and developed the organization. Eventually, he was working on 10 to 15 computers a day at ResNet.
"It enhanced an ability that I had. I wasn't going into IT," Werkmeister says. "I was going into accounting, but I really have a strong IT background just from doing it as a hobby. I build computers and I fix them. All the people in my department (at Bechtel) will usually come to me for questions. So I never left the help desk."
He credits his understanding of how to improve and finish projects to the versatility of classes at RMU.
"It seems to me that Robert Morris picks the right kind of people for the school," he says. "I firmly believe that good education will come from a university with award-winning programs, but a truly outstanding education comes from a university that has a real soul."