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Awards and Honors

Louis Martin-Vega’s dean portrait unveiled in ceremony with colleagues, family, friends

The portrait, painted by Ned Bittinger, will be hung in Fitts-Woolard Hall.

Former dean Louis Martin-Vega, left, and current dean Jim Pfaendtner, right, flank the newly revealed painted portrait of Louis-Martin Vega.

With his family, friends and close colleagues in the audience, Louis Martin-Vega, former dean of the College of Engineering at NC State University, looked on as the drape was pulled off his official portrait by the new dean, Jim Pfaendtner, who holds a deanship named in Martin-Vega’s honor.

The unveiling ceremony on the afternoon of Friday, April 26, provided space for community and reflection on the College of Engineering’s growth over almost two decades. Held just a week before the end of the 2023-24 academic year, both Martin-Vega and Pfaendtner, Louis-Martin Vega Dean of Engineering, were nearing the end of their first years in new roles.

In his opening remarks, Pfaendtner said that over his first nine months at the College, it has been clear that Martin-Vega had a special ability to recruit and retain talent.

“People say this all the time about Louis, and how great he was at bringing people into the fold and putting them to work for this shared vision of advancing engineering,” he said.

Former dean Louis Martin-Vega, standing behind a lecturn addresses a seated group during the unveiling of his painted portrait.

Martin-Vega served as dean of the NC State College of Engineering for 17 years, from 2006-2023. Under his leadership, the College led two National Science Foundation Engineering Research Centers among other high-profile centers leading innovation in several fields, including nuclear engineering, artificial intelligence, wide bandgap power electronics, phosphorus sustainability and more. He also led the College to very significant growth in faculty, student enrollment and research expenditures, including its highest ever national ranking among peer colleges of engineering. Another source of pride for him was the significant increase in women and traditionally underrepresented faculty and staff members and students that was attained during his tenure as dean.

“Louis, you always talk about standing on the shoulders of those that came before you,” said John Gilligan, Distinguished University Professor of Nuclear Engineering, former executive associate dean of the College and a close colleague and friend of Martin-Vega’s. “Well, this is an opportunity now for others to stand on your shoulders, and to really move the College forward.”

Gilligan continued his remarks by drawing an analogy to baseball to describe Martin-Vega’s career as he grew into his role as dean, moving from a field manager in his first few years, to a general manager, then owner, and all the way to commissioner by 2016, when he served as president of the American Society for Engineering Education, was elected into the National Academy of Engineering and took on other national leadership roles.

As I look around, for me, there’s just a tremendous number of memories that have been part of different stages of the time we’ve been here[.]” – Louis Martin-Vega

After Pfaendtner unveiled the portrait, Martin-Vega shared his gratitude – and that of his wife, Maggie, and daughter, Monica – to those in attendance, not just for joining them at this special ceremony but also for the many moments, accomplishments and memories they have made happen together over the last 17-plus years.

“As I look around, for me, there’s just a tremendous number of memories that have been part of different stages of the time we’ve been here,” Martin-Vega said. “But the one common denominator is from the moment that Maggie and I arrived, we felt that embrace, we felt your support. And we felt your outstanding dedication and commitment, which in turn motivated us to commit our all to our common cause of making this the best College of Engineering in the country.”

Martin-Vega continued by noting that behind the portrait, and embedded with the symbolism of it, are all the people who made the College of Engineering’s growth and successes possible.

“None of this is done alone,” he said. “What is really embedded behind [the portrait] is all of you and this is perhaps what is most important.”

Martin-Vega closed his remarks by dedicating the portrait to his wife, Maggie, his “novia” and loving partner and supporter for over 54 years.

The portrait, which was painted by Ned Bittinger, will hang with the other official dean’s portraits in the administrative offices of Fitts-Woolard Hall. Bittinger is known for his portraits of prominent Americans.