Alumni couple honors family legacy with Makerspace gift

Schneider Family

Thirty years ago, Paul Schneider ‘99 and Julie (Norbutas) Schneider ‘98 were classmates in the School of Engineering and Computer Science. Today, they are successful engineers; are the parents of two current Pacific students; and are grateful for the opportunity to give back to their alma mater. 

The Schneiders recently made a generous gift to name the Norbutas-Schneider Woodshop in the Fletcher Jones Foundation Makerspace, a new creative and collaborative hub on the Stockton Campus. Opening later this month, the Makerspace will also house a machine shop, electronics zone, rapid prototyping equipment, laser printers and more. 

Paul Schneider is president and managing principal at Siegfried, the Stockton-based firm that designed the civil and structural elements for the Makerspace. Siegfried has completed numerous projects at Pacific; the firm’s portfolio includes Stagg Memorial Football Plaza, Calaveras Hall, and several other campus and athletics facilities.

The Makerspace project, however, hits especially close to home for the Schneiders. Paul is an avid woodworker, and both the Schneider and Norbutas families come from long lines of skilled tradespeople and educators. Reflecting on these long legacies, Paul and Julie were inspired to make their gift following the death of Paul’s grandmother last year at age 100.  

“Her passing got us thinking about our families’ legacies, and how to leave the world a better place after we are gone,” Julie said.

Pacific is an important part of the Schneiders’ legacy as well. Julie was recruited to play field hockey; Paul’s grandfather worked in the bookstore, and he recalls many afternoons playing on campus as a child. Paul began pursuing medical school at another institution, but was drawn to engineering instead, and gravitated toward the small class sizes and meaningful faculty relationships at Pacific. 

Paul and Julie met in a fluid dynamics class, where Paul first noticed the attractive athlete who always carried her hockey stick to class. A favorite memory they share is of building a concrete canoe, for a longstanding collegiate competition known as Mid-Pac put on by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Absent such resources as a Makerspace, the Schneiders and their classmates scoured the campus for spaces large enough to fit a canoe-in-progress; creative solutions included a six-foot space under the redwood deck that was once attached to the McCaffrey Center.

Paul proposed to Julie in Pacific’s rose garden, and they married in Morris Chapel in 2000. Two decades later their sons, Keegan and Colin, are a first-year and a junior in the engineering school. 

The Schneiders are excited about the learning opportunities the Fletcher Jones Foundation Makerspace will provide for current and future Pacific students. 

“Our boys have been exposed to our do-it-yourself, hands-on approach and Paul’s crazy ability to build things, but not every student has that exposure, especially coming from high schools that are losing shop programs and don’t have those kinds of classes,” Julie said. “To have an outlet for students to work with their hands and build things was important to us.” 

Adds Paul, “As a design engineer for my entire career, I have relied heavily on understanding how things are constructed in order to provide balanced design for our clients. Giving students this space will allow them to also learn how their designs are built, making them better designers in the long run.”

Whether contributing financially or gifting their firm’s time and expertise, the Schneiders are indeed, in many ways, leaving University of the Pacific better than they found it.

To learn more about supporting the Fletcher Jones Foundation Makerspace, contact Dan Mackeben, assistant dean of development for the School of Engineering and Computer Science, at 209.946.2643 or