Renowned urban planner and former Portland State dean Nohad A. Toulan dies in auto accident
Author: John Kirkland
Posted: October 29, 2013

Portland State University emeritus dean Nohad Toulan, founder of the University’s School of Urban Studies and Planning, died Monday, Oct. 28, along with his wife Dirce Angelina Moroni Toulan, in an automobile accident in Montevideo, Uruguay.  He was 81; his wife, 78.

The Toulans were widely regarded as key figures in Portland’s modern urban development. 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. 

He 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. 

Mrs. Toulan 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. 

“Few represent the ideal of Portland State University more than Dean Toulan,” said PSU President Wim Wiewel. “He was a visionary whose work has shaped metro Portland and cities around the world. He helped draft Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary, which has become an international model of how to manage growth and protect open space. He and his wife were active in the Portland community for decades, and Dean Toulan was a highly respected leader in Oregon’s Muslim community.”

Toulan was an urban planning pioneer in his native Egypt. In 1965 he became the first planning director of the greater Cairo region, and was the author of many of the concepts that continue to shape policy in that growing area. He came to Portland State in 1972 from Columbia University in New York, where he was on the architecture and planning faculty. During a 20-month leave of absence in the mid-1980s, Toulan directed the preparation of a comprehensive regional plan for the holy city of Mecca, which presented extraordinary challenges. He’s been an advisor to the United Nations Development Program and to local and foreign governments on development issues.  

“The impact of the Toulans' work can be seen worldwide, and without Nohad and Dirce, Portland State University would not be the nationally recognized higher education institute it is today,” said Carlos Crespo, interim dean of CUPA.  

Toulan was a major force in the planning and building of PSU’s Urban Center, a $33 million mix of academic, retail and office buildings completed in 2000 and referred to by many as the front door to south downtown. He has received numerous awards in Oregon and nationally for his leadership and vision as an urban planner. 

The Toulans are survived by their children Mariam and Omar. Plans for a memorial event are pending, and will be announced on CUPA’s web site: The Portland City Council will conduct a moment of silence and brief ceremony honoring the Toulans at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday before the start of its regular meeting.