Dean of Penn State’s College of Engineering David N. Wormley announced he will retire this summer following a 20 year career at the university.
Wormley has been dean of the college since July 1992.
“I think the college has a very solid foundation and very strong faculty and students in the college, and it’s a good time to have a transition right now,” Wormley said.
Before coming to Penn State, Wormley was the associate dean of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology , where he also earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.
Wormley said he decided to enter into academics while he was doing graduate work at MIT. He started teaching and found he really enjoyed it, and went on to get his masters and doctorate before becoming a faculty member at MIT.
Wormley said he enjoys doing research and having the ability to identify research that students want to pursue, and his position as dean has given him the opportunity to balance research and working with students.
Since Wormley took his position as dean, much has changed in the College of Engineering.
During Wormley’s tenure at Penn State, research expenditures for the college has grown from $32 million to $131 million, according to a Penn State Live press release. Also, while Wormley has been at Penn State, the college’s endowment increased and the departments of chemical engineering and industrial and manufacturing engineering were endowed.
Also, Wormley said he has noticed a lot of changes for the students in how they learn in the college. Wormley said the motto of the college has been to become aware of the world. He said there has been significant growth in the past 20 years in students who take courses with other individuals that are abroad, or the students go abroad themselves.
Wormley said there has also been an increase in teamwork within the college for students.
“The education students receive is very different now. There is a lot more emphasis on student involvement in innovation, projects and teamwork,” Wormley said. “Students are working in teams in education and faculty in their research, so there is much more teamwork in the college.”
Thomas Litzinger, who has worked closely with Wormley, is director of the Leonhard Center for Enhancement in Engineering Education that focuses on courses and curricula and the effectiveness of innovations at Penn State, according to the center’s website.
“He has been a tremendous champion for undergraduate education and the Leonhard Center,” said Litzinger, professor of mechanical engineering. “He’s a very calm, thoughtful leader, and that’s what I try to model.”
Wormley said one of the lessons he has learned while working as dean is the importance of leadership, and he said he has spent a great deal of time looking for the best people to work in the college and then supporting those people.
“In the college, we’ve been able to attract good faculty members and department heads that provide leadership, and that is key to a successful college,” Wormley said.
Gül Kremer, associate professor for engineering design and industrial engineering , said Wormley’s attention to hiring female administrators is one the most noticeable changes for the college, especially because a very low percentage of engineering graduates are women, she said.
“Given such a small pipeline, attracting and retaining senior women faculty members is a challenge,” Kremer said via email. “I do not think the current level would have been achieved for our college without [Wormley’s] consistent focus on increasing diversity.”
Kremer, who has worked with Wormley as a member of the Engineering Faculty Council since 2004, said one of the things she has learned from him is his approach to leadership.
“In recent times, we have seen occasions where leadership skills of our administrators have been tested. During this period, I have taken note of his measured and forward-looking responses to challenging situations,” Kremer said.
On top of the importance of leadership, another lesson Wormley said he has taken while in the college is the impact that an individual faculty member can have on a student.
“When I talk to alumni, it’s very interesting how many of them can remember one or two faculty members that had a really big impact on their success and their career path,” Wormley said.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson said a national search for Wormley’s successor will be conducted by the university, according to the Penn State Live press release.
Wormley said the position is highly regarded and said he is confident that many people will apply for it.
Wormley has received numerous awards, including the NASA Certificate of Recognition, the ASME Dynamic Systems and Control Education Award and the ASME Lewis Moody Award. Wormley is also a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Society for Engineering Education.
Wormley said he hopes to remain professionally active following his retirement this summer. He said he feels confident that the college is in a good condition for him to leave, but that he will miss the people he has been able to work with for so long.
“I’ve been able to work with a lot of great people not only in the college, but in the university,” Wormley said. “I will miss the interactions with a lot of people I’ve worked with closely.”