Described as a man with a golden heart, Dr. Hashim Salman Mahdi, chair and professor of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, was remembered for the tremendous impact he made on the lives of many during his tenure at The University of Texas-Pan American Thursday, Jan. 15 at a memorial service honoring his life and career.
The memorial service was held on the day Mahdi would have celebrated his 57th birthday. Hundreds of students, colleagues, family and friends packed the Engineering Auditorium to bid one last farewell to their beloved mentor, friend, brother, and father.
The College of Science and Engineering organized the event to pay tribute to Mahdi, who passed away suddenly on Jan. 6.
"As you reflect on the impact that Dr. Mahdi had on your life I think that you will agree with me that he had a way of making you want to live up to the high regard that he had for you," Dr. Stephen Crown, mechanical engineering associate professor, said during the service. "He would challenge you to keep things balanced in your life. He demonstrated that true success was related to positive relationships."
Crown described Mahdi as not only a great friend to him, but also a counselor he could turn to when faced with struggles in his life.
"Hashim I hope that you always know how much I appreciate you as my boss, mentor and friend. I always enjoyed myself at work and you were one of the main reasons why. You have a great perspective as a leader and were always willing and eager to listen and make us all want to do our best. Thank you for 14 years of service to M-E, Mechanical Engineering, and for 12 years of being a great friend to m-e, me."
Dr. Edwin LeMaster, dean of the College of Science and Engineering, teared up as he remembered his friend. He shared with the audience how Mahdi was the first tenured-track engineer to be hired at UTPA in 1992 for the new mechanical engineering program. He talked about how when Mahdi taught his first class, UTPA's first thermodynamics class, he was an instant hit with the students.
"Hashim was loved and admired by hundreds of students that he taught, by the faculty members he worked with, by faculty across the campus, and even the staff members. Hashim was always giving a kind word to everyone he met. He set a standard of caring, of compassion, of kindness and consideration that challenges every one of us. The faculty members of the engineering department have developed a tradition of caring for their students through the example of Dr. Hashim Mahdi," LeMaster said.
"He was always the practical joker. Hashim has become my best friend, my adviser on all topics, and he challenged me and the rest of the faculty that came to the new program to do our best. His legacy is a group of faculty members that truly care about their students ... His legacy among the students was to demand the very best of themselves. He would always go out of his way to help them do their best. The professional success of his students is a testament to his legacy," he added.
Mahdi headed up the mechanical engineering program from its inception and as a result of his leadership the program has grown to 542 students - one of the largest mechanical engineering programs in the state of Texas.
During the service, LeMaster announced the College of Science and Engineering will be creating a memorial scholarship in Mahdi's name to provide financial assistance for engineering students, and the college plans to name a lecture hall in the Engineering Building in his honor.
Dr. John Abraham, computer science professor, said the College of Science Engineering has certainly lost the best department chair and professor UTPA has ever had.
"Hashim was a kind and considerate man. When he thanked you it came in triplicates ... I never heard him say thank you just once. Hashim will continue to live in our hearts and will live in our lives if we adopt the good qualities that he left behind," Abraham said.
Abraham said that Mahdi always put the students first and everything he did in the department he did for the betterment of his students.
"Students when you graduate, as it was his desire, he continues to live in you," he said.
Current and former students were in attendance to pay homage to the man who led them on the path of success in family, friends and engineering careers.
"There could never be the right words to describe his influence in my life," said a tearful Julie Fife, a 2004 mechanical engineering graduate.
Fife said Mahdi always went above and beyond to help students when they faced personal or financial hardships when working toward their degrees or after they graduated when most were looking for employment.
"Dr. Mahdi went out of his way to do anything and everything he could for all of his students. He had this gentle endearing way of taking care of all us, faculty, staff, and any one he met that he could help. It was like we were all his family. There will never be another Dr. Mahdi," Fife said.
She added that Mahdi embodied all the wonderful characteristics that a person could have - funny, brilliant, gentle, caring, considerate, sincere, and loving.
"I will miss him dearly and he will always hold a special place in my heart. I know that I am a better person because of him, because of what he taught me, and because he was a part of my life for the past eight years. His legacy will live on through all of us," she said.
Mahdi was born in the Holy City of Karbala in Iraq on Jan. 15, 1952. He was preceded in death by his father, mother, and one brother. He is survived by his wife Rawaa Mahdi, two daughters Neda Mahdi and Jenna Mahdi, one son Rami Hashim Mahdi, and four siblings.
Mahdi joined the UTPA family in 1992. During his tenure with the University, he served as an assistant professor from 1992-1996, associate professor, 1996-2002, and a full professor, since 2002. Prior to his appointment at UTPA, Mahdi was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at The University of Arizona.
He earned his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1989 and a master's in mechanical engineering from the The University of Arizona-Tucson. His research and expertise were in the areas of computational fluid mechanics and heat transfer, alternative energy, and the cooling of electronic devices.
To learn more about the Dr. Hashim Salman Mahdi Memorial Scholarship at UTPA or to contribute, call 956/318-5301. To donate to the scholarship online, visit http://dua.utpa.edu/development/DrMahdidonatenow.html or to download a donation form, log on to http://dua.utpa.edu/development/pdf/Dr_Mahdi_Scholarship_Form.pdf .