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Pense honored for distinguished career

Pense, who has served Lehigh as provost, as dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, and as department chair and professor of MS&E, was cited for "outstanding teaching and research in physical and mechanical metallurgy, and for excellence in leadership and management for the department, college and university."

The awards ceremony was held at Whitaker Lab, home of the MS&E department, following a lunch that was attended by several dozen guests. Some came from as far away as the Midwest.

Some former colleagues of Pense’s who were unable to attend sent regrets to Slade Cargill, department chair of MS&E, who organized the event.

"Al Pense is truly deserving of this honor," said George Krauss, university emeritus professor at the Colorado School of Mines and former professor of MS&E at Lehigh. "Al is an outstanding metallurgist from both a teaching and research standpoint. I have always appreciated his fairness and good sense of humor in all that he does."

"Al truly deserves this award. I have great memories of him and his enthusiasm for teaching, research, and Lehigh," said Arlan Rathke, who earned an M.S. in metallurgical engineering from Lehigh in 1965.

"This very special award could not go to a more deserving individual," said Donald L. Ritter ’61, former faculty member of the MS&E department and manager of research program development at Lehigh who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979-93. Ritter received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1990.

"The prestige of the department, the quality of the faculty, the ability to attract the best students has so much to do with who you are and what you’ve done," Ritter wrote in a personal note to Pense.

Pense, who was appointed to the faculty in 1960, earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in metallurgy from Lehigh in 1959 and 1962. He has taught courses on alloy steels, the physical metallurgy of metals and alloys, and the mechanical behavior of metals. As a researcher, he has investigated structural failures, steel welding, and steel fractures.

Pense served as department chair of MS&E from 1977-83, as associate dean of the RCEAS from 1984-88, as RCEAS dean from 1988-90, and as university provost from 1990-96.

"I have always felt that I’ve risen to the level of my incompetence," Pense joked in his trademark deadpan delivery.

"I never planned to be an administrator. When I became dean, and then provost, I went over to the dark side, like Darth Vader. But then I saw the light and came back to teaching and research."

Today, although formally retired, Pense reports for work most days to the ATLSS (Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems) Research Center, where he has longstanding collaborations with professors of structural engineering and MS&E. He conducts research into buildings and bridges and is particularly interested in methods of welding high-strength steel to itself and to other materials.

Pense and his wife, Muriel, have endowed a new scholarship for undergraduate students. They have been helped by Robert D. Stout and John H. Gross, both research fellows at ATLSS. Stout, dean emeritus of the graduate school and professor emeritus of MS&E, received the department’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1996. Gross is also a professor emeritus of MS&E.

Pense is an active volunteer with his church, Emmanuel Evangelical Congregational Church of Bethlehem, with other Christian groups, and with technical organizations.

Other recipients of the MS&E Distinguished Alumni Award include William C. Hittinger ’44, former university president and former chairman of Lehigh’s board of trustees, and Peter C. Rossin ’48, who established a $25-million endowment for the engineering college in 1998.

Posted on Tuesday, September 02, 2003

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