Gene Cilento, the inaugural Glen H. Hiner Dean in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, will step down from the administrative position he has held at West Virginia University for 19 years, effective June 30.
After a stint as interim dean, Cilento was appointed dean in July 2001. During his tenure, the College experienced nearly two decades of revitalization and renewal, which included new brick and mortar projects, research and laboratory enhancements, new curriculum development and significant growth in student enrollment and faculty hires.
College enrollment has more than doubled to nearly 5,000 students and 44 tenure-track faculty members have been hired since 2012. The College was also the recipient of WVU’s largest gift to date in 2012, from alumnus Benjamin M. Statler and his wife Jo. In recognition of the Statlers’ tremendous generosity, the College was renamed in Ben Statler’s honor that year.
“Gene’s contributions to this University are too numerous to recount,” President Gordon Gee said. “He has built the college into one of our powerhouses, with programs – many of them nationally ranked – that help provide the technology to move the state forward. I am pleased he will still be here to provide wisdom and experience for the students still to come.”
Cilento came to WVU in 1979 as a faculty member in what was then known as the Department of Chemical Engineering and served as department chair from 1988-99. As chair, Cilento helped the department increase its research activity while maintaining strong academic programs, expanded scholarships and fellowships and evolved the Academy of Chemical Engineers into a model of how to recognize and capitalize on the talents of distinguished alumni. He was also on the research faculty in the School of Medicine’s Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology from 1978 until 2013.
After earning a Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, Cilento earned his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Cincinnati. Cilento, who plans to return to the faculty in the Statler College, has conducted research in bioengineering, with special interests in microcirculatory transport phenomena; lung cell function and application of electro-optical and imaging techniques to study organs, tissues and cells in situ. Since 2009 he has been the project director for a multi-million-dollar NASA grant to develop robotics technology for repair of orbital assets.
“I look forward to getting back to focusing on some scholarship activities and interests that I have not been able to pursue after nearly 30 years in administration as a chair and dean,” Cilento said.
In announcing Cilento’s transition, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce McConnelldescribed him as having been a “transformational leader” at WVU.
“The Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources draws students from all over West Virginia, across the nation and even from around the world, largely because of the strength of the academic programs that Gene has built,” McConnell said. “In recruiting world-class faculty and providing them with cutting-edge resources to support their teaching, research and service in their fields, he has created a College of which we are very proud. We are very grateful to him for his vision and his dedication and excited to have him continue as faculty in the College following his invaluable leadership as dean.”
Cilento has served on numerous committees for the University as well as for professional organizations and is currently a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Society for Engineering Education, Biomedical Engineering Society, Microcirculatory Society, Tau Beta Pi and Golden Key National Honor Society. He is an active member of the ASEE Engineering Deans Council, serving on both the Engineering Data and Diversity Committees, and was co-PI on a Sloan Foundation project awarded to ASEE to assess engineering retention to graduation nationally.
“It has been a distinct honor and privilege to lead this great college that continues to have a wonderful future,” Cilento said. “We have enjoyed great success and growth in our enrollment, graduation and research programs and in our national reputation among our peer group over the nearly two decades of this new millennium. I know the Statler College will continue to grow in stature and be an integral part of WVU’s next strategic plan.”
McConnell said that an interim dean of the College will be announced this spring.
Originally from Ann Claycomb for WVU Today.