Foundation celebrates life of MU engineering alum
“We met the first day of school. He lived across the hall in Sigma Chi [fraternity]. My cassette tape-based answering machine, a must in 1997, wouldn’t work. Josh quickly fixed it, breaking out his toolbox and signature ear-to-ear grin, and we became best friends from that day forward,” said Eric Fritsche, a 2001 MU graduate business graduate. “He was always the guy making our lives better, more fun and more enjoyable.”
Fritsche was speaking about Josh Seidel, a 2001 MU Engineering mechanical and aerospace (MAE) graduate. Seidel was a kind-hearted, charismatic guy. He was a mover and a shaker in everything he did, from organizing the best tailgates and an annual trip to the Lake of the Ozarks, known by all as “April Sunburn,” to automating the Sigma Chi door locks by adapting actuator arm technology so they could be opened with a remote. He was invariably all-in when it came to his friends, his family and his work — past tense because Seidel died while repairing equipment at his company, Caliber Cast Stone, Sept. 14, 2013.
After graduating from MU, Josh took a job with River City Construction, working on several construction projects at MU. He later went to work for his father as a project manager at Gundaker Commercial Group, Inc. in St. Louis. Josh’s dad, Mike Seidel, is a 1977 MU MAE graduate.
While at Gundaker, Josh noticed that all of the cast stone the company was using in its designs in St. Louis was being manufactured from far away, the closest location being Kansas City. Cast stone is a masonry product cast to look like various kinds of stone
“Josh said, ‘We could have a significant advantage over our competition if we could produce these locally,’” said Mike.
“Josh saw an opportunity. He worked all day long on our jobs [at Gundaker], and at night and on the weekends, he and a couple of partners would work on the cast stone business. He was working 80 hours a week.”
Caliber Cast Stone was launched in April 2009, and the hard work Josh and collaborators put into the company paid off. Even though it opened its doors during tough economic times, their efforts have resulted in double-digit growth each year since its inception.
“Josh transcended many groups and was loved by so many that when he died, everybody wanted to do something for him,” said Josh’s mother, Terri Seidel. “One of Josh’s friends had knowledge of [charitable] foundations. When the groups learned of this opportunity, they decided to work together to create the Josh Seidel Memorial Foundation.”
At the time of Josh’s fatal accident, he had been working on an annual tailgate get-together with his fraternity brothers. To honor Josh, friends and family decided to hold the tailgate anyway.
“People needed to see each other,” said Terri. “There were a lot of tears and a lot of stories. The boys went over the top to pull off an amazing tailgate tribute!”
Fritsche, who serves as president of the Josh Seidel Memorial Foundation (joshseidel.org), called the event a “raging success.” He explained that funds generated from the event were used to establish a perpetual fund for the Foundation’s work “to honor Josh’s memory and legacy.” Its twelve members include three family members. Mike and Terri, though not voting members, are very involved.
The Foundation’s motto says it all: “Work hard. Play hard. Help others. – Live like Josh.”
A trivia night and auction held Oct. 18, 2014 at Josh’s alma mater, Christian Brothers College High School, netted the Foundation nearly $90,000.
“It just blew away our expectations,” said Fritsche.
Tables for a similar fundraising event scheduled for Nov. 21, 2015, sold out in less than four hours.
The third tailgate since Josh’s death will be held Sept. 19, 2015, at the Mizzou football game against the University of Connecticut.
“Come by Lot M starting at 9 a.m.; you can’t miss it,” said Fritsche.
The Foundation, committed to honoring Josh’s memory by celebrating his favorite things — science, technology, entrepreneurism, connecting people and having fun while doing it — started out by offering scholarships to MU Sigma Chi students. The second scholarship was awarded this academic year, and the group also has decided to award a $5,000 scholarship to a graduating engineering senior as a “send off” for one deserving student’s senior year.
In looking for additional opportunities to celebrate Josh’s life and influence, the College of Engineering is pleased to announce the Foundation has decided to make a $50,000 gift to refurbish the College’s Concrete Lab, complete with a Caliber Cast Stone commemorative tribute to the Josh’s memory.
“This [commemoration] will impact thousands of kids who walk through those doors,” said Terri. “And it’s pretty appropriate to his business at the time of his death.”
Once the project is completed, the College of Engineering will hold a dedication ceremony.