First-Hand:History of an ASEE Fellow - Larry Shuman


History of an ASEE Fellow - Larry J. Shuman

Birthplace: Washington, D.C.

Birth date: September 29, 1942


My paternal great-grandfather and his brother left Riga, Lithuania and sailed to Baltimore in 1890. The two brothers became peddlers, traveling from Baltimore to Point Lookout, MD by foot. Both opened general stores in St. Mary’s County, MD – one in Scotland and the other in Ridge, where they both also served as post masters. The store in Scotland, MD (my great-great-uncle) remained in our family until 1945; it is still standing as “Buzzy’s General Store.” My grandfather moved to the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. during the depression years and opened a store there. My father, who was born in Ridge grew up in Georgetown, earning undergraduate and law degrees from George Washington University. Commissioned as an LTJG, he served in the Pacific during the war, eventually retiring as Lieutenant Commander. He spent the majority of his career with the Veterans Administration, becoming Chairman of the Board of Veterans Appeals. My maternal grandfather came from Russia; my mother grew up in the Petersburg/Richmond area; she earned a nursing degree, from Mt. Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, where she met my father. After the war the settled in Silver Spring, MD where I grew up (graduating from Montgomery Blair High School in 1960).

I met my wife, Barbara Kayten, in 1968 in Baltimore. We married one year later and moved to Pittsburgh. We have two children – Zak (an artist with a line of clothing, who lives in Bali, Indonesia) and Jessica (a social worker living in Doylestown, Pennsylvania). Jessica and her husband Dan have three children – our granddaughter Jordan (10), and grandsons Dylan (5) and Jonah (5).


My undergraduate degree is in electrical engineering from the University of Cincinnati (1965). I chose Cincinnati because I had obtained a co-op position with the Navy Department (David Taylor Model Basin), and needed to attend a co-op school. Among my accomplishments was editing the University of Cincinnati News Record (my first, but not last fling at journalism). I told people I was a psych major since few believed an engineer could edit the campus newspaper (in those days). With the Vietnam War heating up, more education (and a deferment) seemed like a better alternative than industry; also, my co-op job had convinced me I didn’t want to continue working for the government as an electrical engineer. The emerging field of Operations Research was appealing; at that time the Johns Hopkins University was one of the leaders in the field; I applied, and was offered a scholarship and stipend, which I accepted and four years later received my PhD in 1969.


Upon receiving my PhD, I was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh to help create a graduate and research program within the Department of Industrial Engineering. That was in 1969; 49 years later, I have finally transitioned to a part-time appointment. At Pitt, I rose through the ranks relatively quickly, becoming an Associate Professor in 1972, and a full Professor in 1977. Eight years later (1985) I became Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and held that position for 32 years (having added Senior Associate Dean to the title in 2007). I served as interim dean for 15 months in 1993-94). I also served as the Academic Dean for the Semester at Sea Spring Voyage (2002), which was a life changing experience, influencing my creating an international engineering education program when I returned. In 2012, I became a Distinguished Service Professor of Industrial Engineering. Between 1969 until 1985, I was extensively involved with the Research Group of Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania.

Research and Scholarship

My research career has spanned three areas: health services research, engineering ethics, and engineering education. For the first third of my professional career I was extensively involved in health services research performing a number of studies focused on the cost of healthcare, hospital reimbursement, and prehospital care planning, with extensive funding from the National Center for Health Services Research, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania. These studies resulted in a number of papers as well as the co-edited book: Health Operations Research: A Critical Analysis (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975).

With the cutback in government funding for research that occurred in the 1980s, my research focus shifted to engineering ethics. With medical ethicist Rose Pinkus, organizational sociologist Norman Hummon, and industrial engineer Harvey Wolfe we undertook an extensive study of the development of the Space Shuttle, and the ethical issues that engineering faced. That resulted in the book: Engineering Ethics: Balancing Cost, Schedule and Risk - Lessons Learned from the Space Shuttle (Cambridge University Press), which also became the basis for a most successful course that I continued to teach (the last time being Spring 2018). We also conducted a series of studies focused on assessing engineering students’ abilities to recognize and resolve ethical dilemmas that led nicely into my third focus in engineering education research.

Cindy Atman turned me onto the field of engineering education research; one of our early graduate students was Mary Besterfield-Sacre. We focused on assessment and collaborated with the early leaders in the field including Barbara Olds, Ronald Miller and Gloria Rogers in addition to Cindy and Mary. Later collaborators included Eric Hamilton, Brian Self and Gigi Ragusa. With Mary Besterfield-Sacre and Jack McGourty we wrote one of the most widely cited papers in engineering education research: “The ABET “Professional Skills” – Can they be Taught? Can they be Assessed?” Journal of Engineering Education, 94(1), pp. 41-56, 2005. In all, we have published a large volume of papers in the engineering education literature and have been regular contributors at both the ASEE and FIE national conferences.

Philosophy of Engineering Education

My engineering education philosophy has always been to keep the student, as learner, in mind. As Senior Associate Dean for Academic affairs I tried to ensure that students received very good value for their education dollars. Although the University of Pittsburgh is one of the most expensive public university in the U.S., it is consistently considered to be a good value, and has recently been ranked at the best public university in the northeast. I feel I helped contribute to those rankings. I have always tried to anticipate where engineering education is headed, and to make sure the Swanson School of Engineering was at the forefront if not the leader. During my 32 years as associate/senior associate dean for academic affairs, I created a very strong co-op program, and a nationally recognized international engineering education program. In addition, we introduced an integrated freshman curriculum, an innovation program, and developed what is now one of the leading bioengineering programs. I have created and taught innovative courses in globalization and technology (that includes a study trip to China during Spring Break) and an engineering ethics course that includes cases, videos, role playing and weekly updates from the news. As academic dean for the Semester at Sea, I had an opportunity to build my own small college (hiring 25 faculty), offering 77 courses, as we took 620 students around the world for a semester.

ASEE Activities

My involvement with ASEE began in 1995, when Cindy Atman and I became co-Chairs for the 1997 Frontiers in Education Conference (jointly sponsored by IEEE and the ERM Division of ASEE). I later served on the Steering Committee for FIE. I served as a Senior Associate Editor of the Journal of Engineering Education from 2000 to 2006, leaving that position when I was asked to become the founding editor of ASEE’s Advances in Engineering Education, a position I still hold. In between I have served on several ASEE ad hoc committees.

Other Professional Activities

Over a 49 year career, I have been involved with many professional activities including serving on the Health Care Technology Study Section, DHHS, and a number of local health planning committees. I have served on the advisory board for NSF funded studies at LSU and Oklahoma University. My most recent activity has been with the Global Engineering Education Exchange (Global E3) sponsored by the Institute for International Education. From 2009 to 2012 I served on the Global E3 Executive Committee; for the past six year, I have chaired the Executive Committee, a term that has just ended.