Nearing retirement, McLean looks back on a decade of service as engineering dean

David McLean
David McLean

As David McLean approaches the end of his 10-year tenure as dean of the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, he recently reflected on some highlights of his time at CSU.

McLean, who will retire on June 30, was a first-generation college student who earned his master’s degree in civil engineering from CSU in 1982. He recalls that as an undergraduate student at Louisiana State University, he learned about Colorado State from one of his favorite professors there, Vijaya “VJ” Gopu, who had gotten his doctoral degree from CSU in the 1970s. Thanks to scholarship support, McLean and his wife both came to CSU for their master’s degrees as a result.

After earning his Ph.D. from Cornell University, he spent 27 years at Washington State University, where he was director of a research center, associate dean for undergraduate programs and department chair before being hired by CSU.

“It has been a privilege to know and work with Dave McLean during his tenure as dean,” said Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Janice Nerger. “He has been a strong leader for the college, oversaw significant growth in the programs, and has been a tireless advocate for faculty, staff, students and alumni. Dave is known for his personal and professional integrity, and the high expectations he sets for himself and others have been at the core of his contributions and decisions as dean. We have been fortunate at CSU to have the benefit of his character, expertise and dedication.”

“Dave McLean has been a wonderful partner and a strong leader for our college of engineering for the past decade,” added Interim Executive Vice President Rick Miranda. “His deanship has been characterized by integrity and quality growth: in curricular offerings, in facilities, in research accomplishments, in philanthropy, and in student demand and success. It was a real pleasure to work with him and experience his calm, sensible leadership style that foregrounded what was best for our students.”

Scott gift

During McLean’s tenure, the engineering college received a $53.3 million commitment from Walter Scott, Jr., in 2016. The largest gift in CSU’s history resulted in the renaming of the college in Scott’s honor. Scott contributed an additional $11.4 million before he passed away in 2021.

McLean said the Scott gift transformed the college.

“It’s impacted our students, our programs and our facilities,” he said. “It’s enhanced our ability to conduct high-impact research. These are all things enabled by the Scott gift, and it has elevated the entire college in all areas. I’m extremely grateful to Walter Scott, Jr., and the continued support from the Scott Foundation.”

In addition, McLean said, he is proud of the growth the college has seen in enrollment, research and faculty and staff over the past 10 years. As a first-generation student himself, McLean said, focusing on student success and access has been among his primary goals. The demographics of the college’s student body have changed, and he said supporting the success of more diverse and first-generation students has been a top priority.

But he credits many others for the college’s accomplishments.

“Success is always a team sport,” McLean said.

Expanded, diversified research

University Distinguished Professor Sonia Kreidenweis served as associate dean for research in the college from 2015 through 2021.

“Dean McLean prioritized supporting, growing and diversifying the college’s research portfolio in our signature areas, and I am proud of what I helped accomplish as a member of Dave’s leadership team,” she said. “It has been especially wonderful to celebrate the successes of our faculty and researchers and their key roles in interdisciplinary scholarship across the campus.”

In a message to the college announcing his retirement, McLean wrote, “It has been my great privilege and honor to serve as dean of the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering. The hard work and efforts of a large number of people, inside the college and among friends and partners outside of the university, have enabled many successes in our college since I arrived in 2013. It has been the pinnacle of my professional career to be a part of that journey with all of you.”

As for retirement plans, McLean will stay on for the next year in a transitional appointment as a faculty member teaching a class and working on special projects, but he and his wife also plan to spend more time in the Northwest, where their children and grandchildren live.

He said the next dean will benefit from having tremendous faculty, staff and students who will enable many opportunities to move the college forward.

“I’m excited about the future of the college,” McLean said.