Respected civil engineering professor Andrew Scanlon retires

After a rewarding 28 years at Penn State, Andrew Scanlon, professor of civil engineering, is trading in his work boots for golf shoes.

He will be retiring at the end of August.

Scanlon has served in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as a professor, department head and interim department head.

His primary interests include the safety and serviceability of concrete structures and analytical modeling of concrete structures, which he applied to building and bridge research and several projects for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

He also focuses his research on building reinforced concrete floor systems. This work has been included in building codes and has been used by engineering professionals worldwide.

In addition, Scanlon works on seismic analysis and precast buildings.

Looking back, Scanlon considers the influence he had on his students to be one of the most gratifying aspects of his career. He estimates that he has taught roughly 6,000 students during his tenure at Penn State, many with whom he has kept in touch.

“I think one of the most satisfying things is that you can have some kind of an impact,” he said. “It’s always nice when you meet up with one of your students from many years ago, and they still remember you.”

Former graduate student Serdar Astarlioglu, now a structural engineer at Hinman Consulting Engineers, said Scanlon has been much more than an adviser to him.

“He has been a great mentor, friend and colleague,” he said.

Astarlioglu said that he faced some difficulties while seeking his doctorate and Scanlon gave him the support he needed to graduate.

“If it wasn’t for his guidance, support and understanding, I don’t think I would have a Ph.D. today,” he said.

Sezer Atamturktur, a former student who is now an associate professor of civil engineering at Clemson University, said that Scanlon taught her that she could be a friendly and approachable educator yet still be effective.

“You don’t have to be strict and difficult to teach important lessons,” Atamturktur said.

Along with his passion for teaching, Scanlon has always loved to travel, so it’s no surprise that his interest in civil engineering actually started many years ago and many miles away.

Born and raised in Clydebank, Scotland, just outside of Glasgow, Scanlon originally gravitated more toward sports than engineering.

“If I would have had my druthers, I would have preferred to be a professional soccer player,” he said.

But he realized that, although he was good, he would never be the best, so he began exploring other options.

Shipbuilding and manufacturing were some of the main trades in Clydebank at that time, but Scanlon didn’t want to enter into an apprenticeship at 15, which was the common path. He enjoyed school and was naturally good at math and science, so he decided to enroll at the University of Glasgow for engineering.

“I was the first in my family to go to university,” he recalled. “I think my mother would have been quite happy if I had become a plumber or a joiner (carpenter), as long as it had some kind of a skill.”

But Scanlon became much more than that.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1966 and moved to Canada to work for the Canadian Department of Public Works and Government Services where he was in charge of fisherman’s wharves on the Bay of Fundy in Brunswick.

There, he worked for two years before returning to school for his graduate degree at the University of Alberta. He began in the master’s program but decided to skip straight to his doctorate instead. While there, Scanlon also met his future wife, Mary, who was studying for her doctorate as an educational psychologist. He and Mary had three children: Aimie, Mark and Christine.

Scanlon graduated from the University of Alberta in 1972 with a doctorate in civil engineering.

He then worked for the consulting company Reid Crowther and Partners in Edmonton for seven years and the Portland Cement Association in Chicago for four years before accepting his first position in academia back at the University of Alberta. There he stayed until 1987 when he accepted a position at Penn State.

Scanlon said part of what appealed to him most about Penn State was that he would get to help rebuild the structures group. Many of the current faculty members were retiring and this position would allow him to be one of the leaders in the rebuilding process.

Another influential factor was faculty member Harry West, who was the chair of the search committee at the time.

“He and I hit it off right away,” Scanlon said, and the two have remained close friends ever since.

Scanlon said building those relationships, with both faculty and students, was one of the most fulfilling aspects of his career at Penn State.

His least favorite part was grading.

“There is an old saying among academics,” he said. “You'd rather be like Jesus and teach rather than like God and judge.”

Though Scanlon is retiring, he doesn’t plan on leaving civil engineering behind completely.

“I’m retiring from Penn State, but I’m not going to sit in my rocking chair for the rest of my life,” he quipped.

He plans to continue teaching CE341 concrete structures online until a teaching replacement is found, and he’s established a relationship with Northern Arizona University-Flagstaff where he taught a class during a recent sabbatical. He may teach there again while serving on their advisory board.

Scanlon also will stay involved with the American Concrete Institute and American Society of Civil Engineers among others, primarily through society committee work, but he is looking forward to some well-deserved free time, too.

He’s an avid golfer and is planning some golf trips in the coming months. He also hopes to do some writing, develop his piano skills and hike the scenic landscape of Sedona, Arizona where he and his wife will now call home.

And, of course, he plans to travel.

“I’ve always enjoyed traveling,” he said. “I’m like the black sheep of my family. My mom and dad lived their entire lives in the town I grew up in. They never had any desire to go anywhere else.”

Scanlon, on the other hand, has spent nearly 50 years away from home, over half of them at Penn State.

“I’ve met a lot of good people over the years,” Scanlon said. “And that’s the important thing to me.”



Last Updated October 17, 2019