SUMMER 2018

Black-and-white photo of Villanova College of Engineering Dean Gary Gabriele.

In Memoriam: Dean Gary A. Gabriele, PhD

The first Drosdick Endowed Dean of the College of Engineering expanded education and research at all levels

Black-and-white photo of Villanova College of Engineering Dean Gary Gabriele.

Rich in ideas and gifted at collaborating, Gary A. Gabriele, PhD, led Villanova University College of Engineering into a new era. The strategic plan he and colleagues developed after his appointment in 2006 is filled with checkmarks denoting goals realized. These accomplishments speak to the first Drosdick Endowed Dean’s tireless, farsighted efforts to make the College a premier institution. They also shape the legacy of the extraordinary leader who passed away May 14, surrounded by his wife, Cindy, and their four daughters.

Dean Gabriele came to Villanova with a wealth of experience. He had been a division director at the National Science Foundation and had held various leadership roles in his 22 years at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The Burlington, Vt., native, who was an avid sailor, had earned his bachelor’s at Norwich University, and his master’s and doctorate at Purdue — all in Mechanical Engineering.

His vision for all students in the College was that their education prepare them to succeed — as engineers, for sure, but also as doctors, lawyers, CEOs and any other roles they chose. He believed in integrating scientific inquiry into a larger, holis- tic approach to life and work — one that included intellectual, interpersonal and spiritual dimensions.

“Gary really embraced and championed the importance of our Augustinian values in all aspects of Villanova’s engineering program,” says University President the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, ’75 CLAS. “Under his leadership, the College was nationally recognized for developing an intelligent and humanitarian engineer who positively contributes to the common good. The entire Villanova community is incredibly grateful for Gary’s numerous contributions and transformative leader- ship. He is dearly missed.”

Curricular innovations

During Dean Gabriele’s 12 years at the helm, the undergraduate engineering experience evolved tremendously. The College developed a nationally recognized first-year curriculum designed to make students more creative problem solvers and strengthen their understanding of engineering fundamentals.

Through this program and other initia- tives, Dean Gabriele and fellow administrators promoted a pedagogy valued at Villanova: interdisciplinary teaching and learning. They knew that engineers don’t work in silos, so they encouraged collaboration across departments, such as new minors in Sustainability Studies and Engineering Entrepreneurship.

“Gary really embraced and championed the importance of our Augustinian values in all aspects of Villanova’s engineering program,” says University President the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, ’75 CLAS. “Under his leadership, the College was nationally recognized for developing an intelligent and humanitarian engineer who positively contributes to the common good. The entire Villanova community is incredibly grateful for Gary’s numerous contributions and transformative leadership. He is dearly missed.”

With the launch of the Multidisciplinary Design Lab, students with different majors teamed up on actual engineering problems presented by industry partners. Avenues for tackling technological and societal needs opened up year-round with the creation of what is now the Harris Summer Innovation Program. In addition, the unveiling of the Career Compass Program ensured that students were developing professionally from their arrival to graduation.

“Gary was committed not only to innovation in the classroom, but to providing our students with the skills to innovate,” says Professor Andrea Welker, PhD, associate dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Engineering. “He was a champion of instilling in our students an entrepreneurial mindset and believed that innovative engineers make the world a better place.”

Gary really embraced and championed the importance of our Augustinian values in all aspects of Villanova’s engineering program.”

The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, ’75 CLAS

Opening doors

Under Dean Gabriele, the College continued to develop ways for Villanova engineers to share their knowledge to benefit society. Through outreach programs, Engineering majors engaged K–12 students in activities that introduced them to, and got them excited about, this field of study. The College increased collaboration with low-income communities around the world, working as partners to find engineering solutions in areas such as water, energy and health care.

“Gary ensured that the College of Engineering continues to develop well-rounded engineers capable of igniting change and impacting their chosen fields in a challenging world,” says Nance Dicciani, PhD, ’69 COE, a member of Villanova’s Board of Trustees who is also the retired president and CEO of Honeywell International's Specialty Materials Division, and founder and CEO of RTM Vital Signs LLC, a med- ical device startup company.

Dean Gabriele and the College were dedicated to increasing the diversity of the faculty and student body and to attracting even higher-achieving students. Since 2006, each new class has been more diverse and academically impressive. Their successes with attracting female engineering students and faculty have put Villanova well ahead of national averages.

Growing research

Greater numbers of applicants also sought out Engineering’s graduate and doctoral program. The College created and grew graduate and research strengths in areas consistent with Villanova’s values — especially in the area of sustainable engineering. The College’s nascent PhD program flourished, and the number of these degrees it began to award helped the University to achieve doctoral status.

Student and faculty research collabo- ration deepened with the establishment of new centers of excellence focused on sustainability, energy-smart electronic systems and analytics of dynamic systems. As an engineering dean at a Catholic university, Dean Gabriele took seriously his responsibility to foster education and research that addressed the problems of an increasingly interde- pendent world, and his peers at other institutions valued his contributions and example.

“Villanova Engineering flourished under Gary’s leadership, in all respects,” wrote Peter Kilpatrick, PhD, McCloskey Dean of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, in an email. “But beyond being a great dean and a wonderful colleague, Gary was a great person, full of all the virtues that really count.”

These virtues guided Dean Gabriele's many relationships and activities on behalf of the College. Whether he was conversing with students, visiting alumni or meeting industry partners, he exemplified what Villanova Engineering is and aspires to be.