June 20, 2019
2019 Claud R. Erickson Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Penny Wirsing offers advice to graduates
Spartan Engineer Penny Wirsing, P.E., stood before 750 graduating seniors at the MSU Engineering Commencement in the Breslin Center in May and challenged them to “break boundaries” during their careers.
Wirsing, a 1983 civil engineering graduate, offered the annual undergraduate keynote address as the 2019 Claud R. Erickson Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. The award is the highest honor presented to an alumnus by the college – recognizing professional accomplishment, volunteer service, and distinguished service to the college and the engineering profession.
Wirsing told the graduates they will have an opportunity to break boundaries in technical achievements and the workplace culture during their careers.
“A diverse workforce benefits everyone,” she said. “We all have the opportunity to break boundaries in our own way … so I hope you will leave an impact on our world and beyond.”
View the video of Wirsing’s Commencement Address, “Let’s Break Boundaries.”
Wirsing is an environmental manager at Torrance Refining Company LLC in Southern California. She has been working in the environmental science and engineering fields for more than 30 years. In her current position, she is responsible for ensuring Torrance Refining’s compliance with local, state and federal regulations. She has worked in similar roles for Mobil and ExxonMobil.
She is current national president of the Society of Women Engineers, a 40,000-member professional organization dedicated to encouraging women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders. She has been an engaged member of SWE since she was a student at MSU, serving in numerous leadership roles.
Wirsing graduated Mason High School in 1974, and found herself a divorced mother at the age of 18. She began taking classes at Lansing Community College and received an associate’s degree in business management in 1979. She transferred to MSU and earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1983. She later earned an MBA from the University of Washington.
Throughout her career, she has mentored young women within her company, in the local community, and at colleges and universities. She was one of five founding members of a networking organization formed in the early 1990s to promote the personal and professional growth of women at Mobil Corporation. She has also volunteered with a broad range of programs to encourage girls to engage in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities.
Wirsing was one of eight alumni honored in May during the 2019 College of Engineering Alumni Awards banquet. Read more on the significant accomplishments of the 2019 honorees here.