Magazine article ASEE Prism

New Leader at ASEE Headquarters

Magazine article ASEE Prism

New Leader at ASEE Headquarters

Article excerpt

FAMILY LEGEND has it that at age 3, Norman L. Fortenberry declared he was "going to be an 'in-the-ear.'" Certainly from high school onward, through 11 years and three degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, nothing grabbed his interest more than engineering. Attracted to mechanical engineering as the most flexible discipline, he specialized in applied mechanics.

Fortenberry interned at several major companies and two prominent research institutions. But if an industry or research career beckoned, it was quickly overtaken by a new enthusiasm - education - that would ultimately bring him to ASEE as executive director. Since 1988, when he developed lesson plans as a research instructor in a NASA-funded pre-engineering program, he has taught, mentored, funded, and worked to stimulate students and faculty involved in engineering and science. He has also become a soughtafter expert on engineering education, serving on numerous advisory and journal editorial boards. His guiding principle is captured in a 2008 quote from former MfT President Charles Vest, who now heads the National Academy of Engineering: "In the long run, making universities and engineering schools exciting, creative, adventurous, rigorous, demanding, and empowering milieus is more important than specifying curricular details."

Born in Japan as the son of a career U.S. soldier, Fortenberry says his own education benefited from the expectations of progress and character common among military families, as well as from a uniform curriculum at Defense Department-run schools and an ?G? mentor, Samson S. Lee, the "resident philosopher king" of their shared laboratory. He found excitement in a system dynamics course taught by David Wormley, now dean of engineering at Penn State (and ASEE president, 2006-2007). "It allowed you to look at mechanical, fluid, and electrical systems using the same equations - ana you could model things. …

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