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Friends, colleagues, students gather to honor Nohad and Dirce Toulan
Author: Sara Hottman
Posted: November 20, 2013

The unique door to the Dirce Moroni Toulan Library of Urban and Public Affairs came from an old Portland State University building that was demolished.

Nohad A. Toulan, a renowned planner and dean emeritus of the College of Urban and Public Affairs (CUPA), saved the door for years before he found the right place for it, Michael Reardon, former PSU provost, recalled Tuesday at a memorial for Toulan and his wife, Dirce. Toulan saw something in the door — something to be preserved and utilized in the future.

“He had the insight and commitment to save that door,” Reardon said. “I urge you to think about what that says about the real leadership and genius of Nohad Toulan.” 

More than 200 colleagues, community members, and urban planning students attended the memorial service at the Smith Union Ballroom Tuesday afternoon honoring Nohad and Dirce Toulan, who were both killed in a car accident in Uruguay on Oct. 28. Nohad was 81; Dirce was 78. 

Nohad Toulan came to PSU in 1972 and expanded its urban studies programs to eventually create the College of Urban and Public Affairs. He was the college’s first dean, serving from 1976 until he retired in 2004. He established PSU’s Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies, a regional planning think tank, and was known in the community for his roles in drafting the region’s urban growth boundary, championing the Metro regional government, and plotting the University District. Dirce Toulan was an architect, planner and former Fulbright Scholar. She led the effort to expand CUPA’s library, which bears her name.

Friends and colleagues on Tuesday remembered the couple as a premier planning team and dedicated parents to their children, Mariam and Omar, who survive them. Nohad Toulan was described affectionately as a pontificator born to be a dean. Dirce Toulan was a whisper to his boom, one friend said, who tempered her husband’s intensity. 

PSU President Wim Wiewel opened the service presenting Nohad Toulan with a posthumous President’s Medal, which he said is given on rare occasions to people who have contributed significantly to the University.

“Nohad was a great man,” said Lindsay Desrochers, Public Administration faculty. “He was mentor to many PSU leaders, and nurturer of generations of future planners.”