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LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has selected Mary Rezac as the next dean of the KU School of Engineering. Rezac currently serves as the dean of Washington State University’s Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture. She previously worked at Kansas State University for 15 years. Rezac’s appointment as dean is effective March 1, 2024.
LAWRENCE — More than 35 years after working at Watson Library at the University of Kansas, Cliff Haka returned to the stacks with his wife, Sue Haka, to honor someone who made a big impact on his life: the late James Ranz, who served as dean of KU Libraries from 1975 to 1990. The couple’s gift provided for the naming of the Dean James Ranz Administrative Suite and was given to show their appreciation of the education and mentoring received at KU.
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LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has selected Mary Rezac as the next dean of the KU School of Engineering. Rezac currently serves as the dean of Washington State University’s Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture. Her appointment as dean is effective March 1, 2024.
“With her record of excellence in education and research and her commitment to growth and innovation, Mary will be a strong leader and valuable asset in advancing the success of the School of Engineering,” said Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor. “I am excited to see how she will assist KU in accelerating research and discovery while ensuring we remain an exceptional learning community.”
The School of Engineering’s mission is to give students a quality educational experience; generate and apply knowledge through research, development and scholarly activity; and serve society, the state and the engineering profession.
“KU’s School of Engineering has a strong history of completing research that advances society while simultaneously serving to train the next generation of researchers,” Rezac said. “I look forward to working collaboratively with faculty, staff, students and external industrial and governmental partners to craft a strategic plan for the school. Together we will build upon the school’s historic strengths and identify research focus areas that promote KU’s mission of lifting students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world.”
Rezac said she also looks forward to meeting with the school’s constituents early in her tenure, learning about the school’s strengths and ways she can support its various components.
As dean of Washington State’s Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, Rezac oversees seven academic schools and multiple research centers, as well as the college’s more than $80 million budget. In this role, Rezac has managed the expansion of faculty research productivity, establishment of multiple new undergraduate programs and implementation of programming focused on retention and diversity of undergraduate students. Rezac has also led corporate and government relations on behalf of the college, resulting in the college receiving millions in funding, and she developed strategies to fund a 10-year, $350 million capital building project.
Rezac previously worked at Kansas State University for 15 years in multiple positions, including interim associate vice president of research, co-director of the Center for Sustainable Energy and head of the Department of Chemical Engineering. She also was a faculty member of Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Chemical Engineering.
Rezac has served on numerous policymaking groups, including the Council for Chemical Research, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the National Research Council. She holds multiple patents and has co-written more than 250 publications and presentations.
Rezac earned a doctorate and master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Kansas State.
The School of Engineering dean, acting as the chief academic and administrative officer, is responsible for providing imaginative, dynamic and transformational leadership to ensure the school’s long-term success. This includes securing partnerships to advance the school’s mission; ensuring the school attracts and retains talented students, faculty and staff; overseeing the school’s approximately $34 million budget and more.
Rezac will be instrumental in KU’s Ever Onward capital campaign, which will focus on securing support for engineering undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty researchers.
“I am excited and honored to be invited to serve as dean of KU’s School of Engineering,” Rezac said. “As a first-generation college graduate, I appreciate that a degree in engineering can change the trajectory of a graduate.
“I have dedicated my career to ensuring that students succeed through the appropriate design of degree programs, training faculty on the best pedagogy and providing extracurricular support via learning centers, peer mentoring and career services. I look forward to working with the school’s faculty and staff members to identify any unmet student needs and to implement programs to address them.”
The KU School of Engineering, an ABET-accredited public engineering school, was founded in 1891 and is the oldest engineering school in the state. Today it emphasizes interdisciplinary research, encouraging engineers and computer scientists from different disciplines to work together to provide innovative solutions to challenges around the world.
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LAWRENCE — More than 35 years after working at Watson Library at the University of Kansas, Cliff Haka returned to the stacks with his wife, Sue Haka, to honor someone who made a big impact on his life: the late James Ranz, who served as dean of KU Libraries from 1975 to 1990. The Hakas’ gift provided for the naming of the Dean James Ranz Administrative Suite and was given to show their appreciation of the education and mentoring received at KU.
“We really felt we owed a significant debt to KU,” Cliff Haka said. “Sue had never considered a career in academia, and I had never considered a career in library administration until we came to school here. Both of us came to head down those paths based on what happened here at KU.”
For Sue Haka, it was an encounter with a KU professor, Larry Gordon, who encouraged her to pursue a doctorate, resulting in a successful university career in accounting that would see her being named a Distinguished Professor of Accounting and elected as the president of the American Accounting Association.
For Cliff Haka, the mentoring he received from Ranz enabled him to successfully lead Michigan State University Libraries for more than 20 years.
“I was much better prepared to be the director of Libraries at Michigan State University from what I learned from Jim,” Cliff Haka said. “And I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say that I didn’t do anything of substance or make any substantial decision that wasn’t in some way guided by what he taught me.”
To some, it might seem strange that the Hakas would give to KU after long careers at another university, but both believe their lives were better for having studied here.
“In retirement, you have a chance to reflect and for Sue and me, we recognized we owed a great debt to KU,” Cliff Haka said. “I like to think that both of us would have been reasonably successful, wherever we happened to be, but KU put us on a trajectory where we lived in a great university environment, where we had some very enriching careers, and we really loved what we did and we were well rewarded for it. Without KU and our chance meeting and the mentorships with Dr. Gordon and Dr. Ranz, I don’t think we would have been as successful as we were.”
“We are grateful that Cliff and Sue kept KU Libraries in their hearts long after they moved on to great career endeavors and achievements,” said Carol Smith dean of KU Libraries. “Any year would be a special time to remember Jim Ranz and honor the Haka’s gift, but this year – just before our beloved Watson Library turns 100 – seems especially fitting and truly the start of what will be a tremendous centennial celebration in September 2024.”
The Dean James A. Ranz Administrative Suite was officially dedicated Nov. 2. The space houses Smith and much of the KU Libraries leadership team. The plaque outside the main entrance features a picture of Ranz and the following inscription:
Dr. James Ranz
Dean of Libraries, 1975-1990
Dean Jim Ranz was a keen developer of people and of places, a transformational leader who laid the cornerstones of what our community enjoys and experiences at KU Libraries today. With a sharp focus on library facilities, Ranz led space renovations and location consolidations. Under his leadership, Anschutz Library was constructed and Watson Library was modernized.
In addition to the progress he ushered in among KU Libraries locations, Ranz understood the power and potential of the people who worked for KU Libraries. He encouraged his colleagues’ growth and mentored their professional development. He fostered their futures as librarians, leaders, and deans. Jim Ranz’s contributions stretch beyond his 15 years as dean, impacting generations of Jayhawks – those who work and study at the University of Kansas Libraries.
A gift from Sue and Cliff Haka supported the naming of the Dean James Ranz Administrative Suite, in appreciation of the education received at KU, which enabled Sue to become a Distinguished Professor of Accounting and the President of the American Accounting Association, and the mentoring from Dean Ranz that enabled Cliff to successfully lead Michigan State University Libraries for more than 20 years.
About KU Endowment
KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.
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