Kiwanian Pat Soran Joins UNM-LA Board

Pat Soran. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/
Kiwanis Club

Pat Soran was recently chosen by unanimous vote of the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos Advisory Board to fill a position on the board vacated when Michael DiRosa resigned to accept a change of station to the Pentagon.

Soran—a Kiwanis member who has headed the Fourth of July fireworks show for many years—and four other applicants responded to notices posted in the local media asking potential volunteers to send in e-mail messages expressing their interest in serving on the board.

Once Soran is sworn in (probably at the next board meeting), he will serve out the three years remaining in the vacant term. Soran will be the second Kiwanian on the board. Steve Boerigter, Immediate Past President of Los Alamos Kiwanis, is the current president of the board.

In a telephone interview on April 24, Soran was asked what drew him to the position. “I’m an education enthusiast,” he said—and then explained why. Soran grew up in a “large, not-too-well-to-do family.” He was the oldest of four children (and the only child in the family born before World War II). He has a younger brother and triplet sisters. His parents never graduated from high school.

His father ran a poultry processing firm in Oregon, he said, and during the summer between his junior and senior years in high school, he worked from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. each day cleaning up the plant—for $1.65 per hour. The experience quickly convinced him, he said, that he wanted to get an education and do something else. He joined the Merchant Marine, he said, and “sailed and saved my nickels.”

In his first step toward a higher education, he went to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering. Subsequently, he earned a master of science degree in nuclear engineering from Columbia University in New York City, and, finally, he earned a doctorate in engineering science from Columbia.

Asked whether the transition from Oregon to New York City was difficult, he said, “It was hard … shell shock.” However, he realized “that education is very powerful. It can get you out of a lot of situations if you’re willing to be flexible and work hard.”

After he completed his education, he worked at Consolidated Edison in New York City, and then accepted a job at what was then Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in 1972. He worked in T Division for four years, then moved to the nuclear weapons division, later known as X Division. He moved up to group leader and division leader before he retired in 1999.

His new position on the UNM-LA Advisory Board will be his first venture into university administration, although he taught thermodynamics at the City College of New York many years ago.

Asked how he feels about his selection, he said, “I feel good. I’m anxious to get involved in it … I think UNM-LA is a jewel in our community,” and he believes that far too few people realize its value. He said he has seen UNM-LA “go from this little house on Orange Street to where it is today.”

He has several personal connections to the university. His late wife Diane Soran (who died in 1996) taught chemistry at UNM-LA.

His current wife, Ann Hayes, has a bachelor of science degree in mathematics from Syracuse University and a master of science in computer science from UNM-LA. Her resume includes working as group leader in the laboratory’s computer science division.

Asked what Ann thinks about his selection, he said, “She’s excited about it.”