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Inaugural Buchberg Scholar a Tribute to a Well-Rounded Life

When Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) engineer and Georgia Tech alum Brandon Buchberg died suddenly in fall 2013, his colleagues wanted to do something special to remember him.

Their answer was a new annual scholarship for students in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), where Buchberg earned his bachelor’s (2000) and master’s degrees (2002).

“This just was the natural thing. He was so involved with Georgia Tech,” said Mary-Ellen Roca, a training and development coordinator in SGH’s human resources department and member of the scholarship committee. “He was so passionate about all of the things he learned and his experiences there. And he was so invested in young staff, mentoring and coaching and getting them to where they needed to be professionally in a fun and light-hearted way. There was no question about how we would do this.”

Brandon Buchberg having some fun on a Skyline Windows factory tour with SGH. The company created a scholarship in Buchberg's name after he died last fall. (Photo Courtesy of SGH.)

The SGH Buchberg scholarship committee selected the inaugural winner this spring: fourth-year undergraduate Sara Shojaee, a civil engineering student deeply involved in her sorority as well as the American Society of Civil Engineers student chapter and Chi Epsilon, the civil engineering honor society. SGH also donated money to support runner-up Rebecca Yoo’s summer study abroad trip because she was such a strong candidate.

 
Shojaee  

“The Buchberg scholarship stood out to me because it is in honor of a Georgia Tech graduate who clearly made an impact on the people in his life,” Shojaee said. “The scholarship puts a huge emphasis on living a well-balanced life, which I strive to do each day. I greatly enjoy civil engineering, but I also love spending time with friends and family and being involved in Alpha Gamma Delta and other organizations.”

That sounds a lot like Buchberg, Roca said. He was dedicated to his work—“an incredible presence in the office,” she called him—who took new hires under his wing and had his hands in a little bit of everything. For example, he and Roca worked together to revamp Building Technology Bootcamp, a training program for new hires in that division of SGH.

But he also enjoyed life beyond the company, Roca said.

“He was a fantastic engineer, but that was only a small piece of what he was and what he was to everybody in the office,” she said. “He had a very full and rich life outside of SGH, and he tried to meld the two as much as he could.”

That included everything from travel around the world and building homes with Habitat for Humanity to kickball games for charity and a regular bowling league. Roca said Buchberg was known to say “yes” to doing just about anything.

 
  Buchberg plays in the SGH band, Sound Structure, at a corporate battle of the bands event. His group won. (Photo Courtesy of SGH.)

“[He would do] anything to be with people and to do something together,” Roca said.

“Brandon was one of those people who was just larger than life,” said Kimberly Kurtis, CEE professor and associate dean of faculty development and scholarship in the College of Engineering. “Brandon lived every day. He was fun, very down-to-earth, an all-around great guy.”

The Buchberg Scholar Award honors his well-roundedness by requiring applicants to write about how they balance work and life and how their out-of-work interests benefit those around them. Designed for students entering their third year of study or beyond, it provides up to $20,000 over four years to support winners’ remaining undergraduate coursework and two years of graduate study, if they chose to pursue another degree.

Buchberg Scholar winners also have the opportunity to work at SGH as a paid intern. The scholarship helps build the relationship between the firm and Georgia Tech that could pay dividends for other graduates, Roca said.

“We look forward to continuing to build our relationship with Georgia Tech and its students.”