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Endowment Recognizes Uhran for His Impact on Engineering Education

Nina Welding • DATE: August 11, 2017

Categories:  Press Release

John J. Uhran Jr., Ph.D., IN A ’63

Endowment for the lndiana Gamma Chapter at the University of Notre Dame

“Do what your passion is,” notes John J. Uhran Jr., Ph.D., professor emeritus, in in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. That is what he has done since leaving graduate school 50 years ago and it has served him well. “Teaching is a wonderful profession. Although most of my students have gone into engineering, many have gone into business, Iaw, medicine and education.”

Uhran is a much-loved figure in the halls of Notre Dame and his students certainly have not forgotten him. Tau Beta Pi Headquarters was contacted by two former students who went on to successful careers and each recently contributed $50,000 gifts to support the Chapter Endowment Initiative for Indiana Gamma at Notre Dame in honor of Uhran. Discussing this generous gift, Uhran shared that he was, "Surprised and grateful."

Born in Flushing, N.Y., he lived there for 25 years, attending high school and college in the metropolitan area. Living a 90-minute subway ride away, he learned to study while being a “strap-hanger.” Uhran shared that he was aware of the field of engineering as a child since his father was a civil engineer. He was able to work several summers on large highway projects in New York and at one electronics defense laboratory.

Uhran received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Manhattan College and admits that graduate school was not on his mind. “In those days, people did not talk much about post graduate work.” While working as an engineer on Long Island, he started taking business classes in the evenings, but realized he needed more education and began engineering night classes in preparation for going full-time to graduate school. At the time, most of the engineers he worked with had received degrees from schools in the metropolitan New York area and at Purdue in West Lafayette,Ind. After four years, he decided to head to Purdue and began full-time studies for a master's. Receiving a teaching assistant position and interacting with students, he decided to pursue a Ph.D.

Teaching Award
Uhran became an instructor and won the Tau Beta Pi Graduate Teaching Award. During his last year, he was an NDEA Fellow. This was when he was inducted into Indiana Alpha at Purdue as there was no chapter where he did his undergraduate work at the time.

1966 was a busy year: completing and defending his research, getting married, and job hunting. His love of teaching, nurtured while at Purdue, made the decision easy, and he finally accepted an assistant professor of electrical engineering position at Notre Dame. Communications was Uhran's main area of interest and in 1977, he took a sabbatical and worked at MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Mass., doing theoretical research work in satellite communications.

One of his early proposals brought the first minicomputer, a PDP-8, to Notre Dame. He co-developed a software package, NDTRAN, which became popular for modeling courses in a number of universities, with a colleague in economics and several students.

Having held several administrative positions in the department and college, as well as officer positions in ASEE, he was appointed associate engineering dean in 1996. His background and interest in engineering education made him the logical choice to chair a committee to make fìrst-year studies more relevant for the engineering students at Notre Dame. The result was a number of recommendations subsequently adopted there and by others.

Main Purpose
Nine years ago he started a conference on first-year engineering education
(now called FYEE)
. Involving colleagues on both coasts, the conference was expanded and the most recent one was held last August at The Ohio State University, involving 220 faculty and professionals. The main purpose of this meeting continues to provide an opportunity for educators and administrators who work with first-year engineering students to gather and share.

Uhran has been involved with the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) as a program evaluator for over 30 years. He also continues to be involved with the Indiana Gamma Chapter and was Chief Advisor until his retirement.

A highlight in his career was when he became a fellow of the American Society of Engineering Educators (ASEE). Uhran was involved with ASEE for over 30 years in various capacities, including four years on the Board of Directors. .

His advice to the engineering students of today includes, “Stick to it. It’s a great profession. Work hard because it’s worth it. Besides learning what makes the world around us work, an engineering degree leads to many interesting and varied careers.” He adds that students now have opportunities to expand their horizons, such as study-abroad programs and internships.

The Bent of Tau Beta Pi, Spring 2017 issue

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