Harvey Palmer Named University of Washington Distinguished Alumnus

Honor recognizes RIT dean’s career in advancing engineering education

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Harvey Palmer

Imagine walking into the first class of a newly established degree program and finding the dean of the college is also the instructor.

Despite the broad responsibilities leading a large college, Harvey Palmer says he considers teaching integral to his role as dean. He teaches several classes in the new chemical engineering and honors programs at the Kate Gleason College of Engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology.

For this, as well as his accomplishments as a researcher, scholar, administrator and leader in the engineering field, Palmer has been awarded the R. Wells Moulton Distinguished Alumnus Award in Academia from his alma mater, the University of Washington.

“I am filled with pride that he is now numbered among our distinguished alumni,” says John Berg, the Rehnberg Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Washington and Palmer’s thesis advisor when he received his doctorate in 1971. “His outstanding success in expanding, strengthening and modernizing the college of engineering at RIT are known and admired far beyond the halls of that institution. I am proud that throughout his career, his primary focus has remained on students and on the improvement of their experience at the university.”

The Moulton Award has been given to alumni of the university since 1993. Awardees are recognized for their contributions to the engineering industry, faculty service in academia, and government, public or volunteer service.

At the award presentation, Palmer was recognized for his role in transforming the RIT engineering curriculum by adding new programs, including a doctoral degree in microsystems engineering, undergraduate degrees in chemical and biomedical engineering, a graduate degree in sustainable engineering, and a new curriculum option that focuses on product innovation within a global economy.

Prior to coming to RIT, Palmer held several positions at the University of Rochester as a chemical engineering faculty member from 1971–2000, including chair of the department and associate dean for graduate studies in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

He was twice recognized for excellence in teaching with the Undergraduate Teaching Award from the University of Rochester’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. He is also the recipient of the 2007 Leo H. East Engineer of the Year Award from the Rochester Engineering Society and the Edwina Award for Gender Diversity and Inclusiveness at RIT in 2010.

“I am truly honored, particularly considering the outstanding group of prior recipients of the award and their many accomplishments,” said Palmer on receiving the Distinguished Alumnus Award at the ceremony on May 6. “I received an excellent education, which provided me with the foundation for my entire professional career. Being recognized by the chemical engineering faculty affirms that I have lived up to the promise, reflecting well on a program, department and university that I hold dear.”