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Remembering Adel Hanna

April 25, 2023 Adel Hanna

Adel Fahim Hanna, 77, founding director of the UNC Institute for the Environment’s Center for Environmental Modeling for Policy Development (CEMPD) and Community Modeling and Analysis System (CMAS) died April 23, 2023. Hanna a beloved professor, colleague and mentor served the UNC community for more than two decades before his retirement in March 2021.

As news spreads about his passing, family, colleagues and friends remember him for his kind and gentle, but effective leadership.

“Adel was an important leader for both his research center and within the Institute for the Environment,” said Mike Piehler, director of the UNC Institute for the Environment and chief sustainability officer at Carolina. “He was a wonderful person who will be fondly remembered and greatly missed.”

Adel Hanna and Reggie Holley talk at the CMAS Conference.

“Adel was a beautiful, kind person. He may not have known it, but he was my role model,” said Phil Berke, a longtime colleague at the Institute. “He treated all his co-workers with grace and dignity. When someone spoke, he really listened and took an interest in what they had to say.”

He also took an interest in developing the next generation of scientists. Many say he was a mentor to them.

Student poster winners.

“Adel was a guiding influence over CMAS for many years, and he provided a wise and gentle presence that helped the community to flourish,” said Roger Timmis, a colleague from the United Kingdom’s Environment Agency. “Adel took an abiding and encouraging interest in the next generation of air-quality scientists. I remember his smiling face in photographs we took of him with the winners of CMAS’s  annual student poster competition.  That next generation of scientists and the improvements in air quality that CMAS has enabled, are part of his legacy. It was a privilege to have known him.”

Hanna’s name is synonymous with the CMAS Center in the international air quality community. Hanna was named director of the CMAS Center when it was inaugurated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2001. It was established to leverage the air quality community’s knowledge on air quality modeling and analyses to support community decision-makers in addressing air quality issues. In addition to the conference, the CMAS Center offers online training and support, air quality modeling software, data sharing, workshops, journal publications, and a visiting scientist program. The Center’s training programs serve as an education and training core for those who need to learn about air quality, meteorological, and emissions models, and their uses. CMAS training programs reach thousands of scientists around the world.

Hanna addresses the CMAS audience.

The Center moved to its home at the Institute for the Environment in 2003. As director, Hanna was instrumental in growing the user community to thousands of users world-wide. He oversaw the implementation of a comprehensive training program. He spearheaded special issues in scientific journals, bolstering the reputation of the CMAS Center. He also convened an external advisory committee comprised of a diverse user community of domestic and international users from the public and private sectors and academia to guide the leadership of the CMAS Center. Under his leadership, the CMAS Conference evolved into a highly successful annual conference at UNC-Chapel Hill, which is now a major venue for discussing advances in air quality modeling and policy, including spin-off conferences in South America and Asia that are held biannually.

“Over the last two decades for this one week in October, like many of you in the audience, I’ve entered the doors of the Friday Center and was soon greeted by the kind and caring face of Adel Hanna,” said Tom Pierce, a deputy division director at the EPA, in his retirement tribute to Hanna in 2021. “Indeed, when you think of CMAS, Adel is the first person that comes to mind. Adel was the ultimate diplomat, knowing just the right words and offered the right suggestions at the right time to ensure harmony and continued success of CMAS.”

Hanna checks in at the registration table.

Outside of work, Hanna was a devout family man to his wife of 46 years Souzan Yanni, their sons Hani and Peter and grandchildren Emma and Kevin Swanson-Hanna. He was a founding member of St. Mary’s Coptic Cathedral in Raleigh, NC, where he was recognized and awarded for his service in 1994. He also served Archangel Raphael and Saint John the Beloved Coptic Orthodox Church in Chapel Hill.

Adel Hanna and his wife.

“Adel was such an amazing person and just the kindest man I ever knew,” said Richard (Chet) Wayland, another longtime colleague from the U.S. EPA. “I honestly believe that everyone that met him came away feeling like they had just made a new best friend. I am so saddened by his leaving us but know that he is at peace now and watching over each of us.”

Hanna was born in Cairo, Egypt, Oct. 11, 1945. He earned his undergraduate and doctor of philosophy degrees in atmospheric science from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.

In addition to his wife, sons and grandchildren, Hanna is survived by his daughters-in-law, Laura Swanson and Linda Mason, his sister, Susan Hanna, his brothers-in-law, Rafik Seifein and Hani Seifein, and his sisters-in-law, Laila Yanni and Seham Selim, and extended family around the world.

“Adel was a very lovely friend and colleague,” said Sarav Arunachalam, deputy director of the UNC Institute for the Environment and director of the Center for Environmental Modeling for Policy Development. “He laid the foundation for a very successful and thriving program at UNC for the global air quality modeling community, and made UNC synonymous with CMAS for this community. I am fortunate and privileged to have been mentored by Adel from when I first joined MCNC and then at UNC, and he will be sorely missed by all who knew him. He always prioritized the well-being of people around him.”

A funeral service will be held on Wed., April 26 at 1:00 p.m. at Saint Mary’s Coptic Church, 3405 New Hope Rd., Raleigh, NC 27604 with burial immediately following at Raleigh Memorial Park, 7501 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, NC 27612.

Read Hanna’s full obituary