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Dean Nohad Toulan’s retirement leaves a legacy, loss

During his 30 years of service to Portland State University, he outlasted five university presidents and eight provosts. In the face of five major statewide budget cuts, he designed the Urban Center, created and brought national renown to the College of Urban and Public affairs.

For many it is hard to imagine PSU without him, but now that he recently announced his retirement, the school must do just that.

Portland State has until June 2003 to find a successor for Nohad A. Toulan, dean of the College of Urban and Public Affairs.

A search committee consisting of a PSU dean, college faculty, staff and students will be put together by Provost Mary Kay Tetreault to embark on a nationwide search.

“I’m very optimistic that we will find a dean who is right for the next phase of growth, development and excellence in the College of Urban and Public Affairs,” Tetreualt said.

Finding a dean with as much clout and respect as Toulan will not be easy. One look at Toulan’s accomplishments and the national and international prestige he has brought to Portland State makes that clear.

The 70-year-old crusaded for the development of the prestigious College of Urban and Public Affairs, which joined the schools of Urban Affairs and Planning, Community Health and the Hatfield School of Government under one roof, with the vision of serving the city.

The successor faces the task of continuing the strong relationship that Toulan forged between the colleges and their institutions, PSU and the Portland community.

“The challenge will be finding someone with as broad a vision as he,” said Elizabeth Kutza, director of the Institute on Aging. “Someone who appreciates interdisciplinary interactions, who appreciates a community based focus, who has a view of how the university can serve the city.”

Toulan, who has pioneered urban planning in Cairo, Mecca and Portland, credits vision, hard work, planning and understanding goals for his success.

The University’s next goal is to find the candidate most suitable for the position.

“It’s going to take us the full year, I think, to find the right person to be the next dean,” said Ethan Seltzer, director of the Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies. “I am delighted to have Nohad in the position of dean for as long as he wants to be.”

Toulan, an Egyptian immigrant who settled in Portland with his family in 1972, plans to remain in the city after he steps down and “keep a base” at PSU with an office in the Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies.

Toulan added that he plans to provide the next dean with the best scenario upon arrival so that he or she has an easy transition.

The dean will not be involved in the search process, because “you never choose your own successor,” he said. “But the ingredients are there for success.”

The ingredients include a college with three schools and an annual budget of $7.6 million, 1,600 students, 72 faculty and 16 degree programs.

Toulan has received praise for his ability to build a college from the ground up and collect resources from the community and government in the face of multiple statewide budget cuts.

“One of our greatest successes has been our ability to steer ourselves through those obstacles, by anticipating what those obstacles were,” he said.

Only time will tell if a junior dean can successfully commandeer the ship.

“This is a tough job. It’s not just his shoes that are hard to fill, because he was effective and he was prominent,” Kutza said. We need to “find someone who can negotiate all these treacherous waters effectively and doesn’t capsize and take us with him.”

Toulan expressed promise and optimism for the future. He retains enough humor and humbleness, despite various disappointments and failures along with successes, to say, “in reality they were 30 years of fun.”

He added with a laugh, “the worst thing that could happen to this college is for them to go looking for a clone; they should not do that.”

He plans to enjoy his additional free time with his wife, Dirce, writing and traveling.