30 years loyal

Both Jennifer and Chuck were able to achieve their career goals thanks to scholarship support and think it’s important to pay it forward to current WashU students. The couple lives in St. Louis with their two daughters: Brooke, a high school junior, and Lauren, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Class of 2027.

What inspired you to make your first gift to WashU?

Jennifer: I was on the senior class gift committee. I started giving then, and I never stopped.

Chuck: Jennifer was the one who opened me up to how beneficial giving is, no matter the size of the gift, and how important and valuable it is to stay connected and engaged with the university.

The Markwardt-Turco family
Jennifer Markwardt, BS ’93, MS ’99, and Chuck Turco, BS ’95, BS ’95, MS ’96, with their daughters in summer 2023.
Why do you think it is important for alumni to support the Annual Fund year after year?

Chuck: When I was in undergrad, I was part of the competitive programming team, and we went to the world finals of the International Collegiate Programming Competition. We flew on a plane, stayed in a hotel, and had matching T-shirts. And we came in fourth! But in hindsight, who paid for that? Where did that money come from? There’s no magic there: it was the Annual Fund. Being a beneficiary of not only scholarship support, but also of Annual Fund support as a student, connected the dots for me that continuing that support as an alum is an important thing.

How did WashU prepare you for your careers?

Jennifer: I majored in chemical engineering because there was no environmental engineering undergrad degree then. I went into environmental engineering consulting, came back for my master’s degree in environmental engineering, and stayed in the field. But also, I had a work-study job in financial aid processing student loans. It gave me a lot of confidence in calling people on the phone and helping people solve their problems. Even though it’s not related to what I do now, I learned that whatever the job is, there’s always something to get out of it.

Chuck: I was in computer science and electrical engineering in undergrad and finished my master’s work in computer science. But what was the most helpful for me was career services. I was a co-op student for two semesters at a local company. Chris Kroeger ran that program, and through his leadership and outreach he was able to connect students with opportunities. That co-op helped me build networks and professional connections that led to every other job I’ve ever had. The rigor of classes here is a given, but career opportunities give our students a leg up when they’re competing for jobs. It’s a whole different level of rigor.

What was your WashU experience like?

Chuck: I spent hours and hours in the computer labs! Back then you didn’t have a laptop that you brought to school. So as a computer science major, you spent all your time in these 24-hour computer labs, performing rigorous computing tasks. It was a lot of work. But having those resources and having that camaraderie of being in a shared place to solve problems meant a lot.

Jennifer: I also spent a lot of time in those computer labs! I was in the Society of Women Engineers and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. But I also played intramural sports: flag football, ultimate Frisbee, co-ed inner tube water polo! I really enjoyed the dorm experience. I met friends in the dorms the first week of school and hung out with them the whole time I was at WashU.

How has WashU affected your family?

Chuck: Our daughter Lauren just started her first year at WashU in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. She’s an art kid and got accepted to a couple of different art schools, but she chose WashU. The interdisciplinary approach appealed to her. She also has an interest in biology, so she wanted to be able to explore all the other resources that are available at WashU versus just going to an art school. And so, we’re looking forward to what she’s able to accomplish there.

What excites you about the future of WashU?

Chuck: The interdisciplinary nature of the university excites me. When I was a student, computer science was very niche. Today, computer science classes have very broad enrollment from across the university and computer science concepts are being taught across the board. At WashU, you can be a business major or a bench scientist or an artist and you’ll be encouraged to have those skills and interests, because technology underlies all areas of study and enables everything.

Jennifer: In McKelvey Engineering, I’m excited for the new environmental engineering undergrad degree. I’m on the curriculum committee, and it’s good to see environmental as an in-depth course of study. But all the things that are happening at the university are amazing to me. We heard a lecture at Lauren’s orientation about how the Sam Fox School is using AI in art. As engineers we were fascinated to hear about how they’re digging into this technology in architecture. Every time I hear about all of the research that’s going on and everything the schools are doing to cross boundaries, it’s just so exciting.