Million dollar professorship creates legacy

Patrick Bowden Reporter

                 Earlier in February, the lead donor of a one million dollar professorship granted to SDSU’s department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering met at a formal ceremony to present the first recipient of the professorship, Nadim Wehbe, with a medallion, it is a symbol of the installation of the John M. Hanson professorship in Structural and Construction Engineering. 

 Wehbe is now both the first recipient to have the title and the first endowed professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

 “It was a very honoring and at the same time humbling experience to be the first recipient of the John M. Hanson professorship,” Wehbe said. “I know that my name will be cemented in the departments history and that is a great honor and a very humbling experience.”

 Hanson attended SDSU for his undergraduate degree and other institutions for graduate study. Hanson chose SDSU to leave his name on for years to come.

  “I felt that I got a very good undergrad education here. I think when you go onto grad school, it can be a different matter and you have to look closely at the faculty and curriculum. Cornie Hulsbos was my major professor on the faculty at Iowa State and he was the reason I went to Lehigh University after he moved there as the professor in charge of their concrete division.  He gave me a good reason to pursue a Ph.D. and I have remained in contact with him even to this day.”

 “Any engineer or faculty member would aspire to have a career similar to that of Dr. Hanson,” Wehbe said. 

 Throughout his engineering career, Hanson held a number of highly respected positions, including the president of the American Concrete Institution, president of the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. 

 Hanson obtained his undergraduate degree at SDSU, attended Iowa State University and Lehigh University and he ultimately ended his own career as an endowed professor at North Carolina State University before passing on his own name through a professorship.

   “I’ve had a diverse engineering career … I think they [SDSU] have a very good undergrad engineering department. And they’re offering more graduate programs now, I think they have an excellent faculty.”

 Requiring a great deal of fundraising and donors for professorships, SDSU’s own alumni are a major contribution to the school in itself.

   “I think it’s a symbol that we’re becoming more like some of those competitive peers of ours at other comprehensive research institutions,” Brown said. “[The faculty have been] excited because most large research institutions in the country have had endowed professorships positions for years – this is a relatively new thing for SDSU and it’s only the second one in the college of engineering, so it’s very exciting.”

  Both Brown and Hanson believe Wehbe was the right candidate for the professorship title, and the engineering faculty were excited for him as well.

 “He’s a great researcher and a tremendous benefit to the students there,” Hanson said. “I think he was the logical choice and a well deserving person. He came to SDSU from the University of Nevada-Reno, he’s been here about 10 years, and has moved up the ranks.”

 “[Wehbe] was excited [when I told him about the professorship], he was humbled, all the emotions you can imagine to be named the first holder of the professorship is pretty exciting,” Brown said. “I think Dr. Wehbe is a very worthy recipient, and I think that not just the college but the donor will be proud that we selected Dr. Wehbe to be the first holder of the professorship … I think he is a very worthy recipient.”

  Wehbe embraces his new title and the position that comes with it. 

   “100 years from now, someone will still be wearing that title and advancing this college thanks to his gift. It’s pretty hard to put in words gratitude for a gift like that, but that’s what we feel,” Brown said. “What it says to me is he’s a man who you can tell from his gift, really has a lot of care in his heart for where he started his higher education right here at SDSU.”