October 1, 1998
After almost 29 years at Tulane, outgoing School of Engineering dean William Van Buskirk still thinks of himself as a young, fresh faculty member.
"I was the only faculty member in the school hired between 1968 and 1973, so for many years I was the youngest faculty member," he says. "Oddly enough, I still think of myself in those terms, and it comes as a big surprise when I look at the list of the faculty and realize there are only four or five who have been here longer than me."
Van Buskirk ended his tenure at Tulane on Sept. 30 and began his new job on Oct. 1 as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark. In 1970, Van Buskirk came to Tulane as an instructor of biomechanics in the School of Medicine after earning his doctorate in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Stanford University. He transferred to the engineering faculty in 1971 and was instrumental in founding the biomedical engineering department in 1977.
He served as chair of that department from that time until 1991, when he became dean. He held the Alden J. Laborde Chair of Engineering at Tulane. Under Van Buskirk's leadership, the school increased its enrollment by 30 percent and doubled its research support. Van Buskirk, however, is most proud of the faculty members he hired during his seven years as dean.
"They are a very accomplished group and serve as a basis for the School of Engineering," he says.
One of his last achievements as dean was overseeing the renovation of Stanley Thomas Hallto be dedicated on Friday, Oct. 16 which "brings the engineering complex up to the level that provides a quality education for the 21st century," he says.
At NJIT, a public research university with 76 degree programs in five colleges, Van Buskirk will serve as the senior academic officer and will be acting president of the university when the president is away. Van Buskirk says he has fond memories of his time at Tulane.
"Tulane has been a warm and nurturing environment," he says. "I don't know if there is anywhere else where I could have achieved what I was able to do, where a junior faculty member was allowed to develop a new department."
He also says he will miss working with Tulane's new president. "I'm very excited about Scott Cowen's presidency," he says. "I'm going to miss being a part of that. It should be fun." Michael Lynch, professor of mechanical engineering, becomes interim dean on Oct. 1 and continues in that position until a permanent dean has been named. Lynch joined the school in 1976 and has won several awards for teaching excellence. Lynch also developed the Robotics and Control Laboratory at Tulane.
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