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Dr. Fariborz Maseeh: Honorary Degree Recipient 2015
Dr. Fariborz Maseeh: Honorary Degree Recipient 2015

In 1977, when Fariborz Maseeh was 18 years old, he made a decision that would change his life and the future of Portland State University. He had been accepted to a highly-regarded engineering school in Iran, where he could earn his degree and remain near his family.

But he chose instead to move to Portland and enroll at PSU.

It was a bold decision for a young man who, in the decades to follow, would pioneer the field of micro-electro mechanical systems and create a successful wealth management firm. He also established The Massiah Foundation, a non-profit that invests in institutions that make a broad and lasting impact in their communities, including PSU.

Dr. Maseeh’s gifts have shaped the study of engineering, computer science and mathematics at PSU and provided new opportunities for partnerships with businesses, public agencies and non-profits.

“Invest in good causes for public good,” he says, “just as you invest in any prudent venture.”

Dr. Maseeh, who was born and raised in Tehran, was the eldest of four children whose father was an engineer-turned-businessman. He was a fearless and adventuresome boy, but his compassion and interest in philanthropy emerged at an early age.

“When he was a toddler,” his late sister, Dr. Kamelia Massih once said, “he would give away our utensils and our electrical appliances to people who visited our house because he thought they didn’t have them.”

When Dr. Maseeh arrived at PSU, he immersed himself deeply in his studies and gave early indications of the focus and work ethic that would shape his career and his philanthropy.

“Fariborz impressed me with his brightness and his determination to capture every word spoken in class,” said H. Chik M. Erzurumlu, dean emeritus of the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science. “For a faculty member, Fariborz was a dream student.”

After graduating from PSU with a B.S. in Structural Engineering and an M.S. in Mathematics, Dr. Maseeh earned a doctorate of science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990. He founded and served as president of IntelliSense Corporation, which produced cutting-edge micro electromechanical systems. He later sold that company and created a wealth management firm called Picoco and the Massiah Foundation.

Dr. Maseeh’s deep commitment to Portland State is evident throughout the campus.

He has supported scholarships, fellowships, endowed professorships and other funds and awards. His support for the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences resulted in the creation of the Fariborz Maseeh Department of Mathematics and Statistics. He is a member of the PSU Board of Trustees and was honored with the Simon Benson Award in 2009.

But perhaps his most transformative contribution, one of the largest in PSU history, was made in 2004 when he announced an $8 million gift to support a new facility for the study of engineering and computer science.

“We used to be in seven disparate locations all over campus,” Erzurumlu said. “We did not have a front door. No one knew where engineering and computer science was.”

Dr. Maseeh’s contribution led to construction of the Northwest Center for Engineering, Science and Technology. The gift also established two professorships, five student fellowships, and an endowment for the dean of what is now the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science.

The impact of Dr. Maseeh’s generosity at PSU cannot be quantified by dollars, scholarships or square feet. His influence on our students, our faculty and our campus is immeasurable. He has elevated the reputation and broadened the aspirations of his alma mater in ways that no one could have predicted when he arrived in Portland 38 years ago.

The promise of PSU’s future is a direct result of Dr. Maseeh’s guidance and commitment.

“I have always believed,” he says, “that Portland State is in excellent shape to become one of the great universities in the northwest and in the nation.”