June 22, 2001
Vol. 11, No. 49
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Former Provost Paul Christiano Dies at Age 59
The Carnegie Mellon flag is at half staff today in honor of Paul Christiano, former provost, dean and department head at Carnegie Mellon University, who died at his home yesterday (June 21) of cancer. He was 59.
A Pittsburgh native, Christiano earned his bachelor's (1964), master's (1965) and doctor's (1968) degrees in civil engineering from Carnegie Mellon. After teaching at the University of Minnesota from 1967-74, he returned to campus as an associate professor and was named a full professor in 1981.
He earned the College of Engineering's Benjamin Richard Teare Teaching Award in 1982 and was named Professor of the Year by the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1983.
Christiano was associate dean of the College of Engineering from 1982-86, head of the Civil Engineering Department from 1986-88 and dean of the college from 1989-91. Former President Robert Mehrabian appointed him provost in 1991 and he served as the university's chief academic officer through July 2000.
During his tenure as provost, Christiano worked to strengthen all academic and research units, and helped lead an educational movement at the university that fostered the growth of cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary education and research on campus. He stimulated the creation of new research programs that involve the collaboration of faculty and researchers across multiple academic units, specifically between the arts, engineering and computer science.
Of particular importance to Christiano was his work with the Student Undergraduate Research Grant program which allows young scholars and scientists to explore their own areas of interest and hone their skills as researchers. Throughout his career, he devoted himself to his students, making sure his door was always open to them.
Christiano was also an advocate of technology-enhanced learning and as provost he helped to establish the Technology Enhanced Learning Lab to assist faculty in their use of technology to improve the education process. The Office of Technology for Education was also created during his tenure.
Christiano was at the center of strategic investments in each of the university's academic units and his work enabled Carnegie Mellon's reputation to soar to its highest level in history. Christiano helped to establish the Office of Technology Transfer and the positions of vice provost for education and research. During his tenure, he also served as acting dean of the College of Fine Arts (1992-93) and the Graduate School of Industrial Administration (1995-96), as well as acting vice president for development (1999-2000).
"Paul made enormous and enduring contributions to the university," said Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon. "His thoughtful decision-making, quiet determination and innate ability to understand and balance the needs and interests of students, faculty, staff and alumni had an impact in almost every facet of the life of the institution. With his affection for students and his love for the university, he was a model for us all."
"Paul has initiated and implemented changes that have strengthened the university and propelled it to new levels of achievement and recognition," said Dean of Engineering John Anderson. "He has always understood the character of Carnegie Mellon and his tenure has been marked by his ability to balance the interests of the academic colleges and the administration."
"As student, professor, dean of engineering and provost, Paul Christiano gave all to Carnegie Mellon. His legacy is a university that is far better because of him, and students and colleagues who will always remember him as a most caring friend and mentor. We will never forget how he touched us and enriched our lives."
"We wrote two books together and he was always so patient and helpful throughout the entire process," said Tung Au, former civil engineering professor who was Christiano's mentor at Carnegie Mellon. "He was an extremely kind person who made people feel comfortable in his presence. I was honored to know him."
Christiano and his wife met at Carnegie Mellon, then Carnegie Tech, and they were a touchstone for alumni of many generations who would return to campus or maintain their connection with the university because of their visits with the Christianos.
As a civil engineering professor, Christiano's teaching and research included the fields of soil mechanics, foundation engineering, and solid and structural mechanics. He served as a principal investigator on numerous externally funded research projects, conducting research on dynamics and stability of structural systems, soil-structure interaction and soil dynamics.
Christiano consulted on a variety of engineering projects, such as hydraulic and cable supported structures, retaining structures, earth dams and embankments.
His work has been published in many academic and professional journals and he co-authored the textbook Structural Analysis. He served as a reviewer and associate editor for several engineering journals.
Christiano served on the boards of Equitable Resources, Inc., the Western Pennsylvania Hospital, the United Way and the Civic Light Opera. He was a member of academic advisory boards at the University of Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania State University and the Worchester Polytechnic Institute.
Christiano is survived by his wife, Norene, and his daughter, Beth Christiano Zimick of Shadyside.
Funeral arrangements are private. There will be a memorial mass for family and friends at 1 p.m., Saturday, June 30 at St. Thomas More Church, 126 Fort Couch Road, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15241 .
Memorial donations may be sent to St. Thomas More Church, the Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Development Office, 3471 Fifth Avenue, Suite 202, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 or UPMC Hospice, 1370 Beulah Road, Building 701, Fourth Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15235.
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