A tribute to Dr. James Paulson: Standing on the shoulders of giants

When a department like ours has been around for as long as we have been, our history is given substance by lifting up and disseminating memoirs of those who served in prior times. Through these memoirs, we not only get a sense for our history, but come to understand how times then compare to the present, and how the civil and environmental engineering experience has evolved. Through this personal and rich memoir penned by Dr. Khasnabis, Professor Emeritus, I actually feel like I know Dr. Paulson. As a relatively new (colleagues say that I need to stop saying this!) Chair of WSU CEE, I am inspired to know that those who preceded me had a level of concern and commitment to our department that I find at once familiar, and aspire to. Please join me in connecting across the times in our departmental history.

Bill Shuster
Professor and Chair, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Wayne State University

Dr. James Paulson
Dr. James Paulson

Dear Dr. Shuster:

I am sorry to learn about Jim Paulson's passing away earlier this month. I have known Dr. Paulson since 1975 when I joined the faculty in Civil Engineering, WSU; and will fondly remember him as a mentor and as a fellow professional, fully committed to his job in all respects, till his retirement in 1984. When I became the Chair of the Department in 1983, I would often seek his assistance in administrative matters, and he would generously share his knowledge with me, much more than I expected.

Dr. Paulson was the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Engineering when I joined the faculty, and he regularly taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in Structural Engineering for the Civil Engineering Department. While teaching was his first passion, he was always mindful of his other professional responsibilities as a College Professor. Students loved him for his teaching style, stress on the fundamentals, and his thoroughness; this is in-spite of his high expectation of his students in academic performance. As the Associate Dean, he would personally make sure that students admitted to Engineering had satisfactorily completed all pre-requisites without any exception, and would often spend hours with students, particularly those with academic difficulties.

In spite of a busy schedule, Dr. Paulson would insist on performing all the service activities expected of him. He served as a very committed doctoral student advisor, guiding the student in all aspects of his/her doctoral dissertation. And he would regularly attend all major student activities, including ASCE, Chi-Epsilon, and Tau Beta Pi, and would often participate with students in various athletic and professional activities. For many of younger faculty, myself included, he served as a role model.

I kept in touch with the Paulsons after his retirement, and often visited him at his residence in Oscoda, MI.  Unfortunately, I lost contact with him after he moved to Indiana, often exchanging Christmas cards. I know that Dr. Paulson lived a fully productive life; yet in his death, I feel like losing a true friend, a mentor, someone I could look up to.  My sincere prayers remain for his departed soul.

Snehamay Khasnabis
Professor Emeritus, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Wayne State University

Dr. Paulson's obituary

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