Donor Story

UNM People Changing Worlds: Drew Tonigan

By Melissa W. Sais

Posted March 18, 2014

Andrew “Drew” Tonigan faces the same excitements and anxieties of most successful college graduates striking out into the world. The difference may be that the December 2012 University of New Mexico graduate navigates the path to his future fully on his own armed with a positive outlook and resilient spirit that have carried him through tragedy multiple times.


A week before his senior year began at Albuquerque’s Eldorado High School in 2007, Tonigan suddenly lost his father, dentist Richard “Eric” Tonigan. Over the following five years, he would without warning lose his mother, Diane Tonigan, and see the end of the long life of his grandfather, retired UNM professor Dr. Richard F. Tonigan.

Through the emotional storm, what remained constant for Tonigan was UNM and its Presidential Scholarship providing support for his education in nuclear engineering.

“I have been able to continue on a successful educational pathway, remain positive and most importantly, be happy,” Tonigan says. “This all would not have been possible without the confidence and support provided by the Presidential Scholarship. Without it, I would have never been able to put a maximum amount of focus and effort into my education.”

Propelled by emotional momentum and seeking the positive in everything he did, Tonigan became a leader among nuclear engineering students. He earned a 3.68 GPA, and by his senior year he was president of the American Nuclear Society chapter at UNM. He spent two years as an intern in Sandia National Laboratories’ Applied Nuclear Technologies department, where he remained until April 2013 when the opportunity to own a business drew him away. He invested in Saferide Logistics, a transportation service in Albuquerque that includes the Party Trolley providing safe rides for club goers and comfortable transportation for real estate tours.

“The business is small, but I’ve learned a lot working in and on it, and it helps serve the community’s greatest needs,” he says.

But serving in the nuclear engineering arena is calling him back. He accepted a position as the chair of public information with the American Nuclear Society’s local chapter, he recently submitted an internship application with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Austria, and he’s assessing a position in radiation physics simulation with a defense contractor.

“Having been awarded the Presidential Scholarship has provided a buffer after graduation that has allowed me to go through that figuring out period and to take opportunities as they come,” Tonigan says.

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