Two Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty were honored by PSU President Wim Wiewel at a special ceremony in Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom on March 6, 2012, for their length of service to Portland State University. The two are Mike Gorji, honored for 30 years of service, and Franz Rad, honored for 40 years of service.
M. Mike Gorji
Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, M. Mike Gorji, was honored on March 6th for 30 years of service to PSU. Originally from Iran, as a young man Professor Gorji lived in California for many years. After completing his PhD he returned to Iran, but the events of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 led him back to California.
Professor Gorji’s expertise is structural mechanics. His research deals with the theoretical prediction of the behavior of fiber-reinforced composite materials subject to various loading and environmental conditions. After returning to California from Iran, he worked in academia and the aerospace industry before securing a position at what was then the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Portland State. When Professor Gorji joined the Department of Civil Engineering in 1981, there were only a few other faculty members. At the time, the program was transitioning from structural to civil engineering and received its first accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) for civil engineering in 1982.
Over his 30-year career, Professor Gorji has participated in and witnessed the growth of his department, the school of engineering, which became the College of Engineering and Computer Science in 2000, and PSU. He remarks, “There’s no comparison between PSU now and what it was 30 years ago!” He is delighted the university and the college’s reputations have grown and that students have more resources at their disposal. Though Professor Gorji doesn’t believe in retiring at an arbitrary age, he recognizes that after 30 years of service he may have to slow down. He would like to continue to teach, but a lighter course-load because there are so many interesting places to see in the world; he intends to make time to see those places!
When Franz Rad was looking for work more than 40 years ago while completing his PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, he didn’t have the luxury of online employment search tools. In an age before the advent of the Internet, he turned to the one source that could be relied on then and now for information: the library.
As a PhD student in structural engineering with a young family that included three little boys, Franz’s employment search was motivated largely by family concerns. Franz and his wife Leecia’s first son was born deaf due to a case of rubella during Leecia’s pregnancy. The Rads wished to enroll their son at a school for deaf children that used lip reading and spoken language instruction, but at the time there were only three such schools in the United States: in St. Louis, Missouri, Northampton, Massachusetts, and Portland, Oregon. Franz used library research to identify universities in the vicinity of these three cities and contacted each one to enquire if they had any positions available.
Franz began hearing back from the universities, one-by-one, with the news there were no positions available. He had heard from nearly all of them except one: Portland State. It was then he decided to employ the trump card in his deck: a personal connection. When Franz began his PhD studies at the University of Texas at Austin he had met Chik Erzurumlu, now Dean Emeritus of the Maseeh College. At the time Chik was an Assistant Professor in the Applied Science Department at PSU who was at UT Austin completing his PhD. At UT, while writing his dissertation, Franz taught a course in Fortran programming and Chik had focused a recruiting eye on him. With Chik’s help, Franz was able to get phone interviews with the head of the Applied Science Department and the Dean of the College of Science, which led to a job offer with a starting annual salary of $9600. In 1971, that was a fine salary for an Assistant Professor at the beginning of a career.
In his 40-year career at Portland State, Professor Rad has had a tremendous impact on both the university and the college of engineering. He served as Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from 1979 to 2002 and was a major player along with other PSU engineering pioneers, such as Dr. Erzurumlu, in shaping the Maseeh College into what it is today. In the community, he is widely consulted by professionals, politicians and policymakers for his expertise on mitigating against earthquakes. Accustomed to teaching six courses a year, Professor Rad admits, “All good things must eventually come to an end…” However, it’s a safe bet to say there are likely several chapters left in the history of Professor Franz Rad and Portland State University.