PSU urban planner Nohad Toulan and wife die in Uruguay car crash
Author: Kimberly A.C. Wilson, The Oregonian
Posted: October 29, 2013

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A renowned urban planning expert and founder of Portland State University’s School of Urban Studies and Planning died Monday afternoon in a traffic accident along with his wife as they waited at a stop sign in Uruguay.

Nohad Toulan, 81, and his wife Dirce Angelina Moroni Toulan, 78, were key figures in Portland's modern urban development, said City Commissioner Nick Fish.

Toulan, emeritus dean of PSU’s College of Urban and Public Affairs, pioneered urban planning in his native Egypt, in Cairo and Mecca before settling in Portland in 1972.

Under his 30-year leadership, the college garnered international prominence as one of the country's most comprehensive public service programs. The school of Urban Studies and Planning was renamed in his honor in 2005.

Dirce Toulan was an architect, planner and former Fulbright Scholar who established an endowment to support CUPA’s library, and continued to contribute to it in subsequent years. The library bears her name.

"His fingerprints are all over some of the great innovations that we've witnessed over the past 40 years," Fish said. "And his wife, Dirce, was a true partner, a strong woman."

As news of their deaths spread on social media, friends and supporters said Toulan set the gold standard for politics, infrastructure planning and government in Oregon and was a bridge builder who worked to build connections between Muslims and people of other faiths.

"We the entire community of Oregon lost one of the greatest couples that made our community a better place for ALL. I am not of his faith but Dr. Toulan and I worked together to bring greater peace and harmony to our City and our State," wrote Portland businessman and civic leader Sho Dozono.

Wajdi Said, executive director of the Muslim Educational Trust, posted links to local news reports of the Montevideo car crash to Facebook. "Dr Nohad was a champion of the universal values that he believed all peoples and faiths shared, long before such ecumenism was popular. Generations of Oregon governors, PSU Students and Presidents, Professors, Arab American Americans, Muslims benefited from his insight and wisdom."

According to his profile on PSU's web site, Toulan was a native of Egypt and grew up in Cairo and Alexandria. He received his degree in architecture from the University of Cairo, his masters in city planning from University of California at Berkeley and his Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania.

He became the first planning director of the Greater Cairo region in 1965, and came to PSU from Columbia University in New York in 1972. He took a 20-month leave of absence from Portland State in the mid-1980s to prepare a comprehensive regional plan for the holy city of Mecca. In addition, Toulan served as an advisor to the United Nations Development Program and to local and foreign governments on development issues.

Credited with helping to draft Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary in 1977, Toulan also played a central role in the planning and building of PSU’s Urban Center, a $33 million multi-use building with academic, retail and office space that was completed in 2000.

Toulan retired as dean in 2004.

PSU President Wim Wiewel said funeral arrangements are pending and a memorial service will be announced when details are in place. The Toulans are survived by their adult children, Mariam and Omar.

"Few represent the ideal of Portland State University more than Dean Toulan," Wiewel said. "He was a visionary whose work has shaped metro Portland and cities around the world."

 The Portland City Council plans to begin its 9:30 a.m. public hearing Wednesday with a moment of silence and a brief ceremony to remember the Toulans.