College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Retirement cannot quench this lecturer’s passion for teaching

[Photo] Howard Shapiro is a Professor Emeritus in mechanical engineering at Iowa State.
Howard Shapiro, mechanical engineering Professor Emeritus, returned from retirement to teach classes in thermodynamics at Iowa State.
Mechanical engineering Professor Emeritus Howard Shapiro recently came out of retirement and back into the classroom as a lecturer at Iowa State University.

Shapiro graduated from The Ohio State University with a bachelor’s in mathematics (1969), and his master’s (1971) and Ph.D. (1975) in mechanical engineering. His teaching career began in graduate school, where he held his own classes as a teacher’s assistant and lecturer for more than two years.

Shortly after earning his Ph.D., a teaching position was available at Iowa State. Shapiro jumped on this opportunity, and he started his 38-year career as a professor in mechanical engineering, teaching classes and performing research in thermodynamics.

During this time, he co-authored the leading textbook in engineering thermodynamics, which is used at more than 100 institutions worldwide and is being revised for an 8th edition. He also wrote extensively on refrigeration and energy efficiency.

Another important contribution Shapiro made during his career came when he connected with College of Education Professor Barbara Licklider. He and Licklider collaborated to form a faculty-driven in-service program that mentors and teaches faculty to enhance student learning through innovative teaching methodologies, called Project LEARN.

“If I teach and nobody learns, then am I really teaching?” Shapiro asked. “The thing that excites me the most about being in the classroom is to use the best methods to get students to learn, and then assessing and changing to do it better the next time.”

Years later, Shapiro applied his passion for teaching administratively. He assumed the position of assistant dean in the College of Engineering in January 1997. In August 1998, he became the university vice provost for undergraduate programs.

“I had a lot of impact on my own classes, but when I got into administration, I realized you can really mobilize faculty in this area,” Shapiro said, which also allowed him to provide administrative support to Project LEARN.

He served as vice provost until 2004, and later that year, he says he faced a crossroad in his career.

“If I was going to come back to engineering, I was going to finish out my career as a professor, which was very attractive and appealing to me,” Shapiro said. “But I also wanted to continue to impact the university administratively.”

So he searched for administrative positions at universities across the country and found an opening for associate vice president for undergraduate programs and general education at Wayne State University.

Shapiro then retired from Iowa State faculty in 2005 and packed his bags for Detroit, Michigan.

[Photo] Howard Shapiro taught a lesson on exergy.
Howard Shapiro taught the lesson of the day on exergy, also known as available energy.
During the next seven years, he dedicated himself to the students at Wayne State University. He retired from there in 2012, but his passion for teaching ultimately brought him back to Iowa State’s classrooms.

“I flunked retirement twice,” Shapiro laughed.

Shapiro officially returned as a lecturer in mechanical engineering at Iowa State in January 2013. For the fall 2013 semester, he is teaching a graduate level course in thermodynamics.