The View from 30 Feet: Scholarships Relieve Financial Burden, Encourage Plastics Industry Careers
by Brittany Willes, contributing editor
Business gurus often talk about the view from 30,000 feet – the big picture that provides a look at overall operations. Perhaps, however, the focus should be on the view from 30 feet – a close-up of specific processes and procedures that make an impact now.
Bob and Charllotte Janeczko, owners of Innovation Injection Technologies (also known as i2tech), West Des Moines, Iowa, have enjoyed fulfilling careers in the plastics industry. Wanting to give back to the industry that has given them so much, the Janeczkos opted to create the Bob and Charllotte Janeczko Endowed Scholarship for students studying plastics engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. As the price of college tuition keeps rising, students are feeling the strain as they struggle to balance school and work. Proud alums of the university, the Janeczkos know firsthand the rewards of a career in the plastics industry and the importance of helping the next generation pursue similar careers.
Bob Janeczko is a Chicago native and former executive with Morton Metalcraft and John Deere, as well as a professor of industrial technology at Western Illinois University. Charllotte Janeczko grew up in Rosendale, Wisconsin, near Fond du Lac, and is a retired teacher. They purchased Innovation Technologies (i2tech) in 2003. i2tech engineers plastic components and subassemblies, and Bob serves as chairman of the company.
“We made our money in plastics, and we’re glad to be able to help young people with a career in this great industry,” said Bob, who graduated from UW-Stout in 1963 with a degree in technology education. Bob and Charllotte met while attending UW-Stout. According to Bob, UW-Stout is “a unique institution,” one which has afforded the Janeczkos many important opportunities. “If you’re successful, we believe you have an obligation to give back in a meaningful way,” he stated.
The Janeczkos decided the most meaningful way for them to give back was to help encourage and relieve the financial strain on the next generation of plastics engineers. In 2010, the Janeczkos pledged in excess of $1 million to be used in the form of scholarships for students majoring in plastics engineering. The first students began receiving scholarships that fall. “We wanted to leave a legacy,” remarked Charllotte. “It’s a positive way to be remembered.”
Currently, there are more than 80 students participating in UW-Stout’s plastics engineering program. The Janeczko Scholarship goes a long way toward helping students focus more on their education while spending less time worrying about finances.
“It is really cool to see alumni giving back, especially when they have had successful careers as a result of graduating from UW-Stout,” stated Travis Mullen, one of two recent scholarship recipients. As a result of the financial aid from the Janeczko Scholarship, Mullen will be able to work fewer hours at his part-time job, which will allow him more time to study and focus on his educational goals. “The financial pressure that is present with all college students has been relieved a great deal,” he affirmed. Mullen and fellow recipient Max Zamzow each received $7,500 as part of the Janeczko Scholarship.
The scholarship is not the only way in which the Janeczkos continue to give back to both UW-Stout and the plastics engineering community. Beginning in 2011, the Janeczkos regularly have offered students in the Society of Plastics Engineers the opportunity to tour the Innovations Technology injection molding facility. The company also began offering internships in 2012 to UW-Stout students. Former intern Clayton Barrix was hired in 2014 after he graduated. “Clayton has pioneered our 3D printing initiatives,” Bob Janeczko said. Clearly, just as UW-Stout has benefited from the Janeczkos’ generosity, “i2tech has benefited from our relationship with UW-Stout’s plastics engineering program in many important ways.”