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Toulans’ legacy celebrated
Author: Portland State Magazine
Posted: January 14, 2014

This fall, the University mourned the deaths of dean emeritus Nohad Toulan and his wife, Dirce, with an outpouring of tributes recognizing the couple's contribution to academics, urban planning, and religious tolerance.

The couple was killed Oct. 28 in an auto accident while vacationing in Uruguay.

Nohad Toulan, 81, was the founding dean of PSU’s College of Urban and Public Affairs (CUPA), a position he held from 1976 to his retirement in 2004. Toulan also led what became PSU’s School of Urban Studies and Planning for 32 years. The school was renamed in his honor in 2005. Dirce Toulan, 78, was an architect, planner and a former Fulbright Scholar. She established an endowment to support CUPA’s library, and continued to contribute to it in subsequent years. 

The Toulans were widely regarded as key figures in Portland’s modern urban development. Nohad Toulan was on the task force that drafted the region’s urban growth boundary in 1977 and was a champion of the tri-county Metro government. He also established the University’s Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies, a regional planning think tank. 

News of their deaths swept through the highest levels of Portland’s civic, academic, and business communities, and brought comments from some of its most prominent leaders, including Mayor Charlie Hales, Commissioner Nick Fish, businessman Sho Dozono, and Muslim Educational Trust executive director Wajdi Said. Fish suggested the new TriMet bridge be named in the Toulans’ honor.  Dozono seconded the idea in an editorial in The Oregonian.

The Portland City Council opened its Oct. 30 meeting with a moment of silence and a brief ceremony honoring the Toulans. On Nov. 19, the University held a two-hour memorial celebration for the couple, attended by their grown children Mariam and Omar. 

Finally, on Jan. 9, PSU hosted a panel discussion focusing on their legacy of building bridges between people of varying religious faiths. Nohad was Muslim; Dirce was Catholic.  Both were strong supporters of the Interfaith Council of Greater Portland, reflecting their own interfaith marriage and their commitment to religious tolerance. 

“Both were able to sustain their individual religious values and perspectives while at the same time embracing the diversity of the community around them,” said family friend Mark Rosenbaum at the event. “Their example was, and is, extraordinary.”

If you would like to make a gift to the Nohad and Dirce Toulan Endowed Scholarship, please visit the PSU Foundation website here