Sam Park BS’85 is making sure Engineering students take full advantage of their time at Columbia. Park is one of the leading alums behind the Columbia Engineering Internship Fund (CEIF), which allocates funding to eligible SEAS students who are pursuing low-paying or unpaid summer internships, especially overseas. Since its establishment in 2013, the CEIF has distributed awards ranging from $500 to $5,000. In 2015, the Fund distributed almost $79,000 to help students pursue engineering opportunities in Bolivia, Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana, and India, as well as across the United States.

Park said his motivation to help launch and continue CEIF is rooted in his days at the Engineering School.

“When I was in college, I didn’t have a lot of means to enjoy the ‘third semester’—that’s what I called it—over the summer, because I had to work. I lost a lot of opportunities and wasn’t able to take advantage of travel,” he said. “I always thought that if the School invests $50,000 in the financial aid they give kids every year, to have them work someplace that just pays the bills instead of advancing their interests seems like a waste of that third semester. If alumni are looking for a place to invest, helping fund a summer program is a great deal—it’s essentially like buying an additional semester for a few thousand dollars.”

“I really believe that the kids who can’t afford to do what others can should be supported by alumni,” he added. “We’re making an investment in a kid—a commitment to the movers and shakers of the future.”

Today, Park is the president and founder of Boston-based real estate development firm Sam Park and Co., as well as its affiliate company, SPC Capital. At SPC, he spearheads large-scale construction projects from planning to construction. Some of the company’s past projects include advising on Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, and, with Boston University, the redevelopment of the Armory and Kenmore Square.

His work has built steadily on the jobs he started after his graduation from Columbia, when, as an engineer for Vollmer Associates, he worked on projects that shaped the face of New York City, including the reconstruction of the West Side Highway, the creation of Battery Park City, and the construction of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

His time in New York was foundational, he said. “I loved the city. When I was looking at schools, I came up to New York from the suburbs of D.C. and found it was awe inspiring to realize that this was the capital of the world,” he said. “It was eye opening and I never looked back.”

And while his memories of Columbia are fond, Park admitted it’s looking ahead that gets him excited.

“I walk around campus and there’s a much higher level of energy, a much higher degree of community,” he noted. Park gives credit to the School’s leadership for that change.

“I would tell you that a large reason is I see the energy that Dean Mary Boyce brings to the campus,” he said. “They have a really special person in her.”

Jill Galas Hickey, director of annual giving at Columbia Engineering, said the CEIF embodies Boyce’s vision for the School.

“It is important for students to have experiences outside of the classroom and to be able to focus on their learning and not finances,” she said. “This fund allows students to dive into their industry and get the experience they need to be a well-rounded candidate for future job opportunities or for when they’re considering graduate programs.”

Park said he’s also inspired by the passion of the students at Columbia.

“The energy, enthusiasm, and the involvement in state-of-the-art programs—it’s all fascinating to me,” he remarked.

And Park has firsthand knowledge. One of his daughters—he’s the father of four—is a sophomore in Columbia College. And next fall, another daughter will be joining SEAS. It’s given him some ideas, he said, laughing.

“Sometimes I think, maybe I’ll try to get back in, but I’m not sure my daughters would be thrilled if I showed up on campus.”

—by Jennifer Ernst Beaudry