PSU dean is much more than an academic
- Promise King
- Portland Tribune - Opinion
When the world heaps praise on Portland's innovative land-use planning, comprehensive mass-transit system and marvelous landscapes, it's usually the politicians who take the credit.
Until now, one of the principal architects of the Portland mystique has remained in the shadows. That architect is Nohad Toulan, dean of Portland State University's College of Urban and Public Affairs.
For more than three decades, Toulan has been at the center of the region's ongoing drama surrounding growth management. He's been summoned countless times by political leaders Ñ from Neil Goldschmidt to Gov. Ted Kulongoski Ñ seeking expertise on a variety of controversial planning issues.
He's a member of the Growth Management Committee, and before that he served on Gov. John Kitzhaber's Willamette Livability Forum. He chaired the board of the American Planning Association Committee and has served on numerous other regional and national planning boards.
Toulan has been instrumental in helping Metro maintain the area's sustainability and quality of life, and those who have benefited from his experience describe him as a man of great vision.
'I have worked for him for 16 years, and he has impressed me as a very compassionate and thoughtful leader,' says Victoria Gilbert, who serves as the college's executive assistant for management and budget.
'I have always admired Toulan's tenacity and professionalism, both in his public service and private work,' says Portland lawyer Nick Fish.
With his impressive background, it was no surprise that Toulan won his college's Urban Pioneer Award. When he took the stage June 3 at the Hilton Portland ballroom to accept the honor, he was warmly welcomed by several hundred folks from city government and the field of urban planning.
Toulan honed his skills in his native Egypt, where, after graduating with a bachelor of science in architecture from the University of Cairo, he served as the first planning director for the greater Cairo area. He left his native land to accept a teaching position at Columbia University. He moved to Portland in 1972 with his wife and two kids, and took a position directing the urban studies doctoral program at Portland State.
He lives his life with a passionate devotion to the ideals of urban planning around the globe. Toulan's tireless hands have helped mold regions as disparate as Sokoto, Nigeria; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Jedda, Saudi Arabia; Honolulu; and Camden County, N.J.
In spite of his clout and academic achievements, Toulan remains a simple man, his disarming frankness endearing him to many. His unabashed confidence and belief in higher education as a pathway to genuine change in society, combined with a love for his students, make him a rare gem in a world of academia.