Chandrasekhar Putcha

Chandrasekhar Putcha, professor of civil engineering, left, received the congratulations of President Milton A. Gordon on being named the 2006-07 Outstanding Professor Award recipient. Gordon made the announcement during Putcha’s class April 30. All photos by Stephen Weissbart

Engineer Chosen for Outstanding Professor Award

President Gordon Visits Classroom to Surprise Chandrasekhar Putcha

May 1, 2007

By Russ Hudson

Chandrasekhar Putcha, professor of civil and environmental engineering and a 26-year faculty member, is this year’s Outstanding Professor Award recipient.

The announcement was made April 30 by President Milton A. Gordon when he surprised Putcha in his classroom, much to the delight of the professor’s students.

Putcha and his students
Civil engineering professor Chandrasekhar Putcha poses with his class after the announcement that he was this year’s Outstanding Professor Award recipient.

Gordon strode through the door to the front of the room, with a stunned professor and puzzled students looking on. “Each year this university selects one of your teachers to be honored with the Outstanding Professor Award. This man right here,” Gordon said, putting his hand on Putcha’s shoulder, “is this year’s.

“The Outstanding Professor has to be an outstanding teacher and mentor. You’ll agree that he is, won’t you?” Gordon asked, with a loud chorus of “Yes!” answering him.

“The students have always rated him extremely high,” Gordon told the students seated at their desks. Behind them stood a number of administrators and colleagues who had arrived with the president to offer congratulations, including 2005-06 Outstanding Professor Award honoree Zvi Drezner, professor of information systems and decision sciences.

Putcha and Drezner
Zvi Drezner, professor of information systems and decision science — and the 2005-06 Outstanding Professor Award recipient, right, adds his congratulations to those of Chandrasekhar Putcha’s peers for being honored with the university’s top faculty honor.

“I’ve got to say, Dr. Putcha, you stand out as a model for our Cal State Fullerton faculty,” Gordon added, presenting him with a crystal statue of an elephant — the university’s mascot — and a certificate that includes a list of reasons why Putcha was chosen for the honor.

“This is the most prestigious award a professor can receive from this university,” Gordon told the applauding students.

Raman Unnikrishnan, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, pointed out that Putcha is the first ECS faculty member to be selected for the university’s top faculty award. “I thank you for bringing this to our college, Dr. Putcha, and hope it is the first of many more,” Unnikrishnan said.

Chandrasekhar Putcha shares his happiness with his students over being named the 2006-07 Outstanding Professor Award recipient. The announcement was made to his class April 30 by President Milton A. Gordon and a group of his fellow faculty members and administrators.

Diana Guerin, chair of the Academic Senate, told Putcha’s students that service is an important part of a faculty member’s duties. “This award is also for that service,” she said.

 “This was a surprise. Such a surprise,” said Putcha. “The other night I was eating dinner with my wife, and she asked me if I knew who …” Tears streamed from Putcha’s eyes and he couldn’t continue. Later, he finished the thought, saying his wife asked if he knew who was going to get the award, “and I told her, I have no idea.”

Students gathered at the front of the class to congratulate Putcha and to look at his award. One student, Julie Pollard, read aloud a description of Putcha’s accomplishments and various positions he’s held over the years, which include serving twice as chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering — the first time in 1993, and the last term ending in 2002.

Putcha listens as Julie Pollard reads of his accomplishments
Student Julie Pollard reads aloud a description of Chandrasekhar Putcha’s accomplishments and various positions that led to the professor of civil engineering being named the 2006-07 CSUF Outstanding Professor Award recipient.

Putcha’s primary research is in reliability and risk analysis, which has resulted in more than 100 refereed research papers. Research funding has come from several sources, including the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the Marshall Space Flight Center. His research has included analyses of physical and medical factors; traffic flow; various stresses on wharves, bridges and buildings; and Space Shuttle fuel tank attachments.

Putcha has been a visiting or associate professor several times, including at the University of Alabama in Huntsville; Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey; West Virginia University in Morgantown; Polytechnic Institute of New York in Brooklyn; Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada; and University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Canada.

The holder of a doctorate in structural engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Putcha also has been an employee of or consultant for Northrop Grumman Corp., Boeing, Rockwell International, National Technical Systems or TRW Defense Systems Group. Since 1992, Putcha has been recognized 27 times for his service, research and achievements, including more than a dozen times by the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Army, and from NASA.

As the 2006-07 Outstanding Professor, Putcha will be recognized at the university’s May 18 Honors Convocation and carry the mace to lead the faculty at the commencement ceremonies that follow May 19 and 20. He will receive a $4,000 cash award from the President’s Associates and present a public lecture next spring.

Putcha’s selection was recommended to Gordon by a committee of faculty members and students chaired by Joseph Arnold, associate dean of the College of the Arts and professor of theatre and dance.

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