Spring 2012

Leo Hanifin to retire as dean of College of Engineering & Science

Leo Hanifin
Leo Hanifin, dean of the College of Engineering & Science

Leo Hanifin retires from his position as dean of the College of Engineering & Science in August after serving 21 years at the College where he earned three engineering degrees (BME ’69, Master’s ’72 and D.E. ’75). As dean, he embraced the College's motto, “Envision a better world, then create it.”

With his leadership as a teaching scholar, Hanifin brought together an exceptional faculty and connected the College with corporations, government agencies and other universities through distinctive partnerships.

He encouraged students to compete in national and international engineering contests such as the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition and the ASME Innovation Show Contest, where they represented the College well and often won.

“He’s done a great job of recruiting faculty and advancing their scholarly research by finding resources in the College to support their goals," said Pamela Zarkowski, vice president for Academic Affairs. “He lives the Jesuit-Mercy tradition personally and professionally in the sense of social justice and contributing to the common good. He’s a role model for students and a mentor for other deans.”

Engineering alumnus Tom James ’64 recently made a gift to the Leo E. Hanifin Innovation Center in memory of engineering classmate John M. Shimshack ’64, who died April 16, 2012.

In making his gift, James provided the following tribute: “I'd like to make this donation to the Leo E. Hanifin Innovation Center in memory of John Shimshack. John died this April 16th, and like Leo, transferred to Detroit from St. Bonaventure and went on to earn his master's from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where Dr. Hanifin once taught.  John often credited the difficulty and rigor of the engineering program at Detroit with his success in later life. Before he retired, John ran Kodak-Europe from an office in London. But John said the toughest three years of his career were the three he spent at Detroit.”

A recent highlight of his career at UDM was leading the Michigan Ohio University Transportation Center (MIOH UTC), a coalition of five universities funded by the Department of Transportation (federal and state) and partner corporations. In this role, he brought together UDM engineering and architecture faculty who worked with consultants from Deloitte to provide research, analysis and recommendations for the light rail system in Detroit. After retiring as dean, he will continue to lead research and advise leaders from transportation-related public and private organizations in the development of mass transit in southeastern Michigan.

“The people of the College of Engineering & Science are its strength,” he said. “They truly embrace the mission and are diligent and collegial in the way they work together, teach and support the University.”

He proudly cites the collaborative IDEAS course – Interdisciplinary Design Entrepreneurship and Service – that he created with Will Wittig, dean of the School of Architecture, and faculty from engineering, digital media, business and psychology. The course designs solutions for the community, and taps into the students’ collaborative, innovative and entrepreneurial skills.

Speaking of students today, Hanifin notes that they readily access information online for course materials and to communicate with faculty members. “It can add to their education as long as it doesn’t replace face-to-face socialization.”

Among his many achievements as dean, he has:

  • Obtained grants, gifts and tuition assistance from corporate and government agencies for UDM worth more than $75 million.
  • Developed partnerships with industry across Michigan and the nation to provide research and customized education for employees at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Such programs include the advanced electric vehicle program developed with Ford Motor Co.
  • Served as principle investigator and initial director for the Greenfield Coalition, one of only eight NSF Engineering Education Coalitions. Greenfield developed new models for experiential and computer-based engineering education, and had an extensive engineering program with Detroit-based Focus:HOPE.
  • Worked in partnership with agencies and corporations to introduce Detroit-area middle school and high school students to the study of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses through inspiring summer camps and weekend programs.
  • Encouraged diversity in both gender and nationality, which doubled the percentage of female faculty and created a highly diverse student body, both of which enhance the educational experience.
  • Initiated the development of international programs with leading universities in Mexico (Monterrey Tech), China (Tsinghua and Nanjing University of Information Systems and Technology) as well as Australia (Curtin Technological).

Throughout his career, Hanifin has served on several boards and provided leadership at the University, in the community and for professional groups. Prior to becoming dean, he was on the faculty and an executive director at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He also worked in the automotive industry at Chrysler and in aerospace industry. He and his wife Angie have three grown children, all of whom graduated from the University.

Hanifin believes that engineers and scientists are world-changing professionals. “The world needs the changes that we can make through scientific discovery and all the applications of engineering. The study of STEM courses lead to careers that make the world safer and healthier.”

Hanifin plans on continuing his contributions to and through UDM by researching and teaching the areas of transit and innovation, and mentoring students.

As a tribute to Hanifin’s service as dean and his keen interest in workplace innovation, UDM is creating the Leo E. Hanifin Innovation Place (HIP) in the College of Engineering & Science. The space is intended to teach and inspire innovation. Teams of students, faculty and/or staff across the University can collaborate to develop innovative ideas for problem solving, be it design competition, work-process improvement, or creative solutions. The place will be designed to have a welcoming look with open access and lots of natural light. Wall-mounted, large-screen displays and extensive surfaces, painted with IDEA paint, for drawings and notes will encourage team thinking and teamwork. It will be a room of creativity open to all where innovation will take shape through collaboration and cooperation.  Fundraising is already under way; contributions can be made online at udmercy.edu/giving or by contacting Barbara Milbauer, assistant dean of Development for the College, at 313-993-3360 or milbaubs@udmercy.edu.

Garibaldi and Hanifin at reception
At a reception, May 3, UDM President Antoine M. Garibaldi presents framed Pewabic tiles representing UDM and Detroit to Leo Hanifin in recognition of his 21 years as dean of the College of Engineering & Science.

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The Great Donate

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