Remembering Laura Hahn

Born and raised in Urbana, Laura Hahn made the University of Illinois a second home until her passing on September 30, 2019. Earning three degrees at Illinois, including a Ph.D in Educational Psychology in 1999, Hahn used her expertise to guide novice instructors in higher education while collaborating with seasoned faculty. In the process, she raised the bar for how educators approach teaching while providing a sense of community.

Hahn served as director of the Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education, was an adjunct professor, and co-authored the book, ‘Women and Ideas in Engineering: Twelve Stories from Illinois.’

Marne Helgesen, the former Head of the Division of Instructional Development in what is now the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL), hired Hahn as an instructional developer in 1987 and recalled her lasting impressions.

“Laura left a solid footprint on the success for international graduate students in their teaching responsibilities. In our field of faculty development, Laura was a visionary and a leader.” 

Other colleagues who worked closely with Hahn over the years also shared their memories of her in their own words.

Chris Migotsky

Coordinator of Faculty Teaching Programs for AE3

“One of the things that Laura taught me was to include faculty in all aspects of our Collins Scholars program; as weekly guest presenters, as co-observers, and also as mentors in the Strategic Instructional Innovations Program (SIIP). She reminded me this is a program _for_ faculty and should include faculty at all levels. It would have been easy to do sessions ourselves, or bring in CITL staff. We needed to take the extra step of finding experienced faculty to teach the new faculty. AE3 had to be faculty-centric. With all of her connecting skills, it was easy to find and bring in tenured faculty to help the new cohort.

Laura also kept a keen eye on equal representation; she wanted more female and minority faculty involved. She pushed me to include more women in our excellent teacher visits, recruit them as guest speakers, workshop co-presenters, and as Education Innovation Fellows. As a white male, I easily forget how important it is to reward and recruit underrepresented faculty. Laura kept me thinking deeper about the important realities of faculty development. I dearly miss Laura. AE3 is not the same without her.”

Angela Wolters

Director of Women in Engineering (WIE)

“On the day of the book release celebration for ‘Women and Ideas in Engineering: Twelve Stories from Illinois,’ I shared a note with Laura that she kept displayed on her office desk. Since her passing, the note was returned to me. The note reflects how I will always remember her, her contributions, and our friendship.”

Dear Laura,

It has been an honor and privilege to spend the past several years working with you on “Women and Ideas in Engineering.”  Reflecting back on our work, I see our transition from colleagues to collaborators to friends.  I’m thankful for your collaborative nature and kind spirit as these characteristics of yours, along with your vast skills and professionalism, were integral in bringing us to today!

Thank you for riding on this “book writing roller coaster” with me. It’s been wonderful sharing the ride with you!

With admiration,



Bruce Litchfield

Founder of AE3, Assistant Dean in The Grainger College of Engineering

“In life, Dr. Laura Hahn’s passion for helping others excel in the engineering classroom changed the lives of many teachers and their students. After Laura’s untimely passing, her influence continues to impact instruction at Illinois.

Laura had many connections to engineering – through family, friends, and academics – and so it was a natural fit for her to assume the position of Director of the AE3. Her style of leadership combined professional collegiality and a personal touch that gently encouraged instructors to think critically about their instructional decisions.

Laura’s impact continues through the many programs she directed and the suggestions, tips, and feedback she offered to so many through classroom observations. Many of us remember a challenging word from Laura to improve how we teach, always offered with kindness and patience.  Teaching and learning at Illinois is forever changed for the better thanks to Dr. Laura Hahn.”


Laura Hahn Faculty Support Fund

A memorial fund has been established in honor of Laura Hahn, the long-time director of the Academy of Excellence in Engineering Education. Give to the Laura Hahn Faculty Support Fund and invest in excellent faculty members and programs that advance Grainger Engineering’s innovations in education and learning. On the giving page, be sure to indicate “Laura Hahn Faculty Support Fund” in the “Other” box at the bottom of the page.

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Laura Hahn