University of Pittsburgh
February 20, 2008

Lifetime Achievement Award Presented to U.S. Steel Dean of Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering

Gerald D. Holder honored by Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania with 2008 Metcalf Award
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—Gerald D. Holder, the U. S. Steel Dean of the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering, was honored with the 2008 William Metcalf Award from the Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania (ESWP) for lifetime achievement in engineering. Holder received the award at ESWP's 124th Annual Banquet Feb. 20 at Heinz Field. The banquet—which took place during National Engineers Week (Feb. 17-23)— featured as keynote speaker Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell and as special guest speaker Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney.

Now in his 27th year at Pitt, Holder is a renowned authority on gas hydrates, a potential energy source composed of gas molecules trapped in hydrogen-bonded water molecules. Holder serves on the Congressional Advisory Panel on Methane Hydrates, which advises Congress on the potential future use of gas hydrates for energy. In addition, Holder has served on more than 20 national panels and committees for the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the American Chemical Society, among others. He also has worked for or consulted with several major corporations, including ExxonMobil, General Motors, and Alcoa.

Since becoming the ninth dean of Pitt's engineering school in 1996, Holder has overseen a period of unprecedented growth at the school in students, reputation, and resources. In 1995, the Swanson School received less than 800 freshman applications. In 2007, more than 2,200 freshmen applied with a record 35 percent of those applicants residing outside of Pennsylvania, a reflection of the school's growing national reputation. More than 450 freshmen enrolled this year, with a class average SAT score of 1312 and with more than half of the students having graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. In 1996, the average SAT score was 1195 and only 32 percent of incoming engineering students were in the top 10 percent of their graduating high school classes.

Also during this time period, the school's faculty members have gained greater recognition for groundbreaking research. For example, last year's "Scientific American" 50—a ranking of the nation's top scientific researchers—included Michael Sacks and William Wagner of the bioengineering department for their work in regenerating cardiovascular tissue using biodegradable scaffolds. Anna Balazs, a chemical engineering professor, recently published two articles in a single month in "Science," a prominent academic journal in which publishing one article is a notable accomplishment. Also, Kent Harries, an assistant professor in the civil and environmental engineering department, is a widely cited expert on bridge construction and design who was featured in scores of media reports around the world following the collapse of the Interstate 35 bridge in Minneapolis.

During Holder's tenure as dean, research grants awarded to engineering faculty jumped from less than $20 million in 1996 to currently more than $55 million. Also, more research is leading to successful new technologies and companies. In 2007, the Ligonier-based company Powercast beat out more than 20,000 new products from around the world to win the "Best in Show for Emerging Technology" at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company's radio frequency power-harvesting device is based on basic technology licensed from Pitt and developed by Marlin Mickle, the Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of electrical and computer engineering and telecommunications and the executive director of Pitt's RFID [Radio Frequency Identification] Center of Excellence.

The school also has generated unprecedented philanthropic support under Holder's leadership. Over the past decade, the school received more than $90 million in outright cash support, compared to $18 million in the previous decade. The school now has a $98 million endowment, up from $48 million in 2000, and it has successfully met a $100 million campaign goal, which has been expanded to a goal of $175 million.

The school also was renamed the Swanson School of Engineering in December 2007 in recognition of the largest individual donation in the University's 220-year history. John A. Swanson, founder of Canonsburg-based ANSYS, Inc., and a 1966 Pitt PhD engineering graduate, received the honor in recognition of his more than $41.3 million in support, all of which was committed during the course of Pitt's current $2 billion capital campaign.

Holder earned his PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1976. That same year, he joined the chemical engineering faculty at Columbia University. He left Columbia for Pitt in 1979, and in 1987 he was appointed chair of the Pitt engineering school's chemical and petroleum engineering department. In 1999, three years after Holder became the school's dean, U. S. Steel endowed a permanent chair for the dean of the engineering school.

The Metcalf award, presented each year since 1963, takes its name from ESWP founding member William Metcalf, a pioneer in steel manufacturing. The award goes to an outstanding engineer in a field normally associated with Western Pennsylvania, such as steel, aluminum, coal, glass, or electrical equipment. A plaque recognizing the winners of the Metcalf award hangs in the Pittsburgh Engineers' Building at 337 Fourth Ave., Downtown.

Founded in 1880, the ESWP promotes interaction throughout the technical community in Western Pennsylvania to advance the professions of engineering, architecture, and applied sciences through technical activities, public service participation, and social organizations. It also supports the needs of industries, communities, and government in Western Pennsylvania.