Inaugural Bob Westphal Memorial Scholarships Winners Announced

Four individuals have been awarded the inaugural Bob Westphal Memorial Scholarship. Benjamin Media and Continuum Capital announced that Gillian Dahn of Austin, Texas; John Kraft of Ponchatoula, Louisiana; Timothy Sparks of Buckeye, West Virginia; and Nick Swank of Medina, Ohio, have each been awarded $2,500 in the first year of the program.

Robert Westphal


The Bob Westphal Memorial Scholarship was established by Benjamin Media Inc., publisher of Trenchless Technology and North American Oil & Gas Pipelines, and Continuum Capital, in cooperation with SkillsUSA, and was officially announced during the 2020 Pipeline Leadership Conference.

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The scholarship program was created in recognition of the impact of the late Robert H. “Bob” Westphal on the oil and gas pipeline industry, and is aimed at assisting students interested in pursuing a career in energy construction.

RELATED: Obituary – Trenchless Industry Icon Robert ‘Bob’ Westphal

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This scholarship honors Westphal who committed a lifetime of leadership in pipeline construction. He gave back to the industry in many ways, including leadership positions with industry associations and in working with labor organizations. His contribution to the pipeline industry will be recognized by this scholarship that will encourage young people to pursue a career in pipelines.

The four scholarship winners were chosen by a selection committee, and each applicant is pursuing different careers within the energy industry.

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Dahn is double majoring in Business Management and Construction Engineering at Louisiana Tech, in Ruston, Louisiana. She said she is drawn to energy construction as a means to preserve U.S. energy independence.

“The U.S. economy’s strength is tightly linked to the construction industry, specifically energy construction,” Dahn said. “I want to not only be a part of that but a driving force in building the critical infrastructure that keeps America the land of the free.”

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Dahn said she is “very honored” to have been selected for the Bob Westphal Memorial Scholarship.

“I also hope that this brings more recognition to this scholarship and awareness to the energy industry,” she added.

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She is looking forward to the upcoming school year.

“I am really excited because all of my classes this coming year are very hands on and will provide learning opportunities outside of the classroom,” Dahn said. “I have discovered in the construction field that it is important to cover all aspects of the field and my classes this coming year will help provide that.”

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Kraft is also studying at Louisiana Tech and is pursuing an advanced degree in Engineering Materials with a concentration in Infrastructure Systems. He wants to follow in his family’s footsteps in the energy industry, as his great-great grandfather worked in pipeline construction after returning from serving in World War I. Two of Kraft’s great grandfathers also worked in oil and gas, one with Trunkline Gas Co. and the other for Gulf Interstate Gas Co. Both of his grandfathers continued this tradition in south Louisiana by working in Shell and Exxon mobile refineries. Kraft’s father and two uncles have also made careers in south Louisiana refineries.

Kraft said he is “excited and honored” to receive this scholarship, and added, “I also feel responsible since this scholarship was set up in memory of a man that made a great impact on the industry that I should also try my best to do the same.”

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He looks forward to getting back to his studies.

“This year I am looking forward to returning fully to my research after all of the delays from the past year,” he said. “With more things returning to normal I can hopefully finish my Doctorate in this academic year and get to work.”

Sparks is pursuing an Associate’s Degree as an Electrical Utility Technician Line Worker at Pierpont Community and Technical College in Fairmont, West Virginia. He said he is excited to learn about the

“possibilities of where energy will go in the future,” adding that he’s interested in clean energy solutions and the creation of jobs.

“I want to pursue a career in the energy industry because I have always been interested in the field of electricity,” he said. “Power has always been something I want to do for a living and continue to learn more about.”

Sparks said he feels “honored about being awarded” the Bob Westphal Memorial Scholarship.

“In the energy industry I hope to have an impact by being known as a reliable worker,” he said. “I hope to have people know I’m always there to help.”

Swank is pursuing a Construction Management degree at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. He said he has always had a strong interest in heavy equipment and its growing technology. He sees “enormous opportunities” in the oil and gas industry, sees trenchless technology as a eco-friendly means expanding infrastructure and energy independence.

“I cannot express my gratitude enough for giving myself and three other students this award,” Swank said. “I am looking forward to being back on campus this fall to truly enjoy in-person learning and receive the best education experience I can.”

RELATED: 2011 Trenchless Technology Person of the Year: Bob Westphal

The Bob Westphal Memorial Scholarship will be presented annually over the next five years, starting in 2021. Applications can be submitted from anyone pursing an education at a technical/trade school, community college or university. The award for an individual will be for one year.

Donations to the scholarship fund can be made through SkillsUSA, which is a non-profit organization. Scholarship applicants will be solicited through Benjamin Media publications (North American Oil & Gas Pipelines and Trenchless Technology), Continuum Capital and SkillsUSA.

Further details about the Bob Westphal Memorial Scholarship, including information on how to donate to the fund, are available at

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