University of Pittsburgh
May 10, 2017

Long-serving Dean of Engineering to Return to Faculty

In his 21 years as dean, Gerald D. Holder doubled enrollment, increased opportunities for students

PITTSBURGH—Marking the culmination of more than two decades of leadership, Gerald D. Holder, the U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, has announced his intention to step down from his position and return to the faculty in the fall of 2018.Gerald D. Holder

Holder, a distinguished service professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, has been dean of the Swanson School since 1996 and a member of its faculty since 1979.

“Two words come to mind when I look back on Jerry’s incredible career as dean of our Swanson School of Engineering: tremendous growth,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “Under Jerry’s leadership, our Swanson School has seen record enrollment levels, and total giving to the school has topped $250 million.

“The school has also expanded academically to support new knowledge in areas like energy and sustainability — and also new partnerships, including a joint engineering program with China’s Sichuan University. And while I will certainly miss Jerry’s many contributions as dean, I am grateful that he will remain an active faculty member and continue to strengthen our Swanson School’s bright future,” Gallagher said.

“Through a focus on innovation and excellence, Dean Holder has led a transformation of the Swanson School of Engineering into a leader in engineering research and education,” said Patricia E. Beeson, provost and senior vice chancellor.

Beeson added, “From the establishment of the now top-ranked Department of Bioengineering to the integrated first-year curriculum that has become a national model, the Swanson School has been a change maker. And with nearly three-quarters of the faculty hired while he has been dean, the culture of success that he has established will remain long after he steps down.”

The University plans to announce the search process for his successor in the coming months.

Holder’s Many Accomplishments

In his 21 years as dean, Holder has overseen school growth as well as increases in research awards and philanthropic gifts. Enrollment has doubled to nearly 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and the number of PhDs has increased threefold.

Holder also has emphasized programs to nourish diversity and engagement. In 2012 the Swanson School had the highest percentage in the nation of engineering doctoral degrees awarded to women.

Cocurricular programs also have prospered during Holder’s tenure. The school’s cooperative education program, which places students in paid positions in industry during their undergraduate studies, has increased to approximately 300 active employers.

International education or study abroad has also become a hallmark of a Pitt engineering education, with 46 percent of Swanson School students participating in 2015, versus a 4.6 percent national average for engineering and a 22.6 percent national average for STEM fields.

The school’s annual sponsored research has tripled during Holder’s years as dean, totaling a cumulative $400 million. Alumnus John A. Swanson’s landmark $43 million naming gift in 2007 was the largest-ever gift by an individual to the University at the time.

University-wide initiatives developed during Holder’s tenure as dean include the Gertrude E. and John M. Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering; the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, founded with support of alumnus John C. “Jack” Mascaro; and the Center for Energy.