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Late businessman Callas endows professorship at Johns Hopkins

December 12, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Michael G. Callas
Michael G. Callas

The Johns Hopkins University is known throughout the world for medical research, but the late Hagerstown businessman Michael G. Callas remembered his alma mater by endowing a professorship for his profession, civil engineering.

Somnath Ghosh, who holds joint faculty appointments in Hopkins' departments of Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, was installed Dec. 5 as the first Michael G. Callas Professor of Civil Engineering in a ceremony at the university.

Callas, who died in 2004, earned his bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1943 at Hopkins and his master's degree in structural engineering in 1947, according to the biography provided by the university. He founded Callas Contractors Inc. in 1958. Callas began contributing toward the Michael G. Callas Professorship in Civil Engineering in 1989 and made provisions in his will to fully fund the endowment through a bequest, the university said.

"He and I are both graduates of Johns Hopkins and its School of Engineering," said Harry T. Reynolds of Smithsburg, the former president of Callas Contractors. "He attributed his success in life, both financial and otherwise, to the education he received at Johns Hopkins," Reynolds said Friday. Callas and he both were able to attend Johns Hopkins because they earned state senatorial academic scholarships, Reynolds said.

The nation needs engineers and others with technical skills, said Reynolds, who spoke at the dedication ceremony.

"If we're going to remain competitive in a worldwide market, we have to develop our technical skills even more," he said.

"Education was extremely important to Uncle Mike," said Callas's niece, Cathy Bushey of Hagerstown. "He just felt you could never get too much education," and endowing the professorship was his way of giving back to Hopkins what it had given him, she said.

"He was also active here in Washington County as far as promoting education" through projects such as Children's Village of Washington County, said Bushey, who also spoke at the ceremony.

Callas was The Herald-Mail's 2000 Person of the Year for his four decades of service to Hagerstown and Washington County, both in business and public service. The long list of organizations and institutions that benefited from his leadership includes United Way of Washington County, Hagerstown YMCA, Boy Scouts of America, Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, Hagerstown Community College and Washington County Public Schools.

The athletic field at North Hagerstown High School is named in his honor.

Engineering courses were introduced at Hopkins in 1913 and a School of Engineering was established in 1919, the university said. The school was merged into the School of Arts and Sciences in 1966, but a separate G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering was re-established in 1979, named for a co-founder of the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., the university said.

Ghosh received his master's degree in theoretical and applied mechanics from Cornell University and his doctorate in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics from the University of Michigan.

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