Engineering opening up professorship

Pat Bowden

Million-dollar engineering dpt. professorship to attract best talent

A 1953 civil engineering alumnus of the SDSU College of Engineering is giving back to the college to which he graduated, specifically in the form of a one million dollar professorship endowment. John M. Hanson has contributed the lion’s share of money to an accumulating professorship donation for the Jerome J. Lohr College of Structural Engineering. 

Nadim Wehbe, who has been teaching at SDSU since 1998, will be the first recipient of the John M. Hanson Professorship. The Professorship will be formally presented on February 4 at an exclusive investiture ceremony.

“[The fact that Hanson chose SDSU to endow] shows that we’re a good investment, and we’re extremely happy with his generous gift,” Dean of Engineering Lewis Brown said. “The total earnings from the endowment are about four percent – or $40,000 a year and what we do with that is split it. Roughly half of it will go as the stipend onto the salary of the faculty member recipient, and the other money that is left over will be used at his discretion to support research and scholarly work.”

New faculty members start as assistant professors and after five years they become associate professor. After another six successful years, a faculty member is then considered a full professor. This professorship gives professors the next rank, or promotion, to work towards. 

“There are several donors but the lead donor is Dr. Hanson himself. We will honor the lead donor with a medallion, but the biggest thing about these [professorships] is the name. The faculty member’s official title now becomes the ‘John M. Hanson Professor in Structural and Construction Engineering,’” Brown said. “He’s now identified in that professorship, and people who hold university-endowed professorships are considered at the very top of their game.”

This is the second professorship in the College of Engineering (the first one in 2011), which is a testament to not only the professorship itself but also to the college. 

“Someone thought enough about our need to recruit and retain the very best to put up a million dollars. It turns out that Dr. Hanson himself was an endowed professor at North Carolina State (where he schooled after SDSU) years ago in the structural engineering area,” Brown said.

The rest of the college is also working on fundraising for future donations and opportunities. 

“The SDSU foundation is active in fundraising for more professorships and it will be a part of our goals ongoing through 2018,” The Mayor of Brookings Tim Reed said. “We hope to get three more professorships by 2018.”

The John W. Hanson Professorship and others alike help to give faculty something to “reach for,” otherwise highly skilled professors tend to shop around for opportunities elsewhere, according to Brown. 

Along with student opportunities, the reputation of SDSU continues to grow with donations and professorships – many of which come from the alumni themselves.

“If you look around we’ve had five building projects in the last ten years – all of those have been thanks to our friends and alums in the college of engineering,” Brown said. “We’re really blessed with great friends out there, including Dr. Hanson.”