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Dr. Hisham Nasr-El-Din was a well-respected colleague, professor, mentor and friend. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering/Nancy Luedke

Dr. Hisham Nasr-El-Din, professor and holder of the John Edgar Holt Endowed Chair, passed away on July 3, 2020. He leaves behind a legacy of service, respect, professionalism and kindness not soon forgotten in the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University.

Nasr-El-Din was the recipient of many accolades during his lifetime from the department, college and university, as well as numerous Society of Petroleum Engineering (SPE) honors that highlighted his distinguished achievements over a long career in industry and academia. Most recently, he was named winner of the prestigious Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal Award from SPE, of which he was also a distinguished member, as well a prior recipient of the SPE Faculty Award. But perhaps one of the most significant honors, and the one that defines why he was such a beloved faculty member, was the 2017 Student Employment Impact Award he received from Texas A&M.

Nasr-El-Din maintained eight scientific research laboratories in the petroleum engineering department. His student researchers in those labs numbered from 20 to over 40 per year. He worked tirelessly to provide financial support for all of them by seeking out graduate research assistantships, student assistant positions and funding from industry partnerships and consulting work. These efforts enabled his students to work on real-world problems in the laboratory and collaborate with industry leaders, earning advantages for them that led to internships and permanent employment after graduation.

Most importantly, Nasr-El-Din ran his research group as if part of a company, drawing on his 20 years of experience as a researcher for Saudi Aramco. Attendance was taken every morning, researchers reported to their offices or labs during the day and were held to standards of laboratory safety equal to or higher than those in industry. He read all of their daily reports and responded with answers or guidance so his students would have realistic expectations, ample experience and practice fulfilling the level of expectation industry would demand.

Yet this same professor, who demanded respect and professionalism from his students, also served them with kindness. Often called “Dr. Hisham” by his students who dubbed themselves “Hisham’s Army,” he was humble and approachable, but a firm and realistic mentor. His door was always open to those with questions regarding research or life, and he organized his student workspaces to encourage those from different cultures to mingle with and learn from one another.

Since his death, countless tributes have poured in over social media following the hashtag #HishamStrong. Colleagues, and current students and former students have already begun supporting causes important to him, including establishing memorial graduate funding and a campaign to provide clean water wells in his name to needy communities in the Middle East, something he cared deeply about.

Remarks left by those who knew him memorialize his life in the best way possible.

“Dr. Hisham is a true example of a professional who was passionate about his work. He definitely transferred that attitude to all his students. In a personal sense, he saw a chance to help and never hesitated to do so,” wrote Dr. Ahmed Rabie.

“He fought for me, supported me professionally and personally. He was so patient, humble, wise,” wrote former student Khatere Sokhanvarian.

“Everyone's life needs a shining light that paves the way to unimaginable opportunities and circumstances. Dr. Hisham Nasr-El-Din was that light in my life,” wrote current student Raja Ramanathan.

“He had the highest of manners — an inspirational soul that sparked enthusiasm, planted resilience and discovered passion — a petroleum engineering guru with unfathomable professional generosity,” wrote current student Ahmed Elkady. “My world was a much better place when I had him in it.”

“He was more of a mentor than a boss: firm, but with gentle guidance,” wrote Gia Alexander, Nasr-El-Din’s staff editor. “He was a paragon of humility in a state of greatness.”

“We are bidding farewell to a distinguished, world-renowned scientist, a prodigious researcher, a gifted teacher, a great educator, a true gentleman and a shining example to all of us,” wrote Dr. George Moridis.  “To say that he will be missed is an understatement.”

“He was a kind man with a big heart and a giant in our discipline,” wrote Dr. Eduardo Gildin.

“I have been honored and humbled to have served beside him,” wrote Dr. Jerome Schubert.

“Dr. Nasr-El-Din by far outperformed everyone else, on every imaginable metric. He was beyond doubt our department's greatest engineer and educator,” wrote Dr. Ruud Weijermars. “Now he will be allowed to rest from a meaningful and fruitful life. His memory and legacy lives on.”