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Zoe Dwyer pictured with husband David and daughters Mary Ingalls (left) and Margaret (right)

Dwyer Retires after More than 30 Years at UAB

Zoe Dwyer came to UAB as a transfer student; a college sophomore looking for a better fit. She arrived at the School of Engineering in the spring of 1987, and she found a place that would be a near-perfect fit for the next 37 years.

Dwyer, now an associate dean with the School of Engineering, retires at the end of this month after a 27-year career at her alma mater where she earned three degrees and worked a variety of roles as researcher, professor, and administrator.

Putting Students First

When asked to name the most rewarding aspect of her time at UAB, Dwyer was quick to answer. “It has to be the students.”

In addition to her role as associate dean, Dwyer has served as the school’s primary freshman advisor for more the past 18 years. She also worked intermittently during that time as the school’s recruiter and freshman instructor—meaning that for many generations of students, Dwyer was the first, and often the closest, connection they had with UAB faculty.

“The thing I find most amazing about Zoe is that someone will mention a student who graduated a decade ago and Zoe will immediately tell you what high school they came from, their major here at UAB, what sport they played or where they did an internship.,” said Jeff Holmes, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering. “ And she can do that for hundreds if not thousands of our graduates. It tells you right away how deeply she cares about our students, and that’s why she has been so good as an advisor and an associate dean.”

Professional Career

A native of nearby Hoover, Dwyer graduated from WA Berry High School. She earned her B.S. in materials engineering in 1990, her M.S. in ’93 and her Ph.D. in ’94.

She began her professional life at UAB as a postdoctoral researcher under Charles Bates, Ph.D., before joining the faculty as an instructor in 1996.

Dwyer moved to the Dean’s Office in the early 2000s to work under former Associate Dean Doug Rigney, Ph.D., and then moved into that role herself in 2013.

Blazers for Life

Even though she arrived at UAB as a transfer student, Dwyer says she immediately knew that she had found a home in UAB, even though it was a very different campus from what has developed in ensuing decades.

zoe office door“My first year at UAB, the basketball teams still played their home games at the civic center downtown,” she said. “A lot of the students were older, and there wasn’t much student housing on campus.”

That would begin to change with the opening of Bartow Arena in 1988, where Dwyer and her future husband (fellow Berry graduate David Dwyer) were regular attendees even after they graduated. “I don’t think we missed any home games from my first year as a student until we had children (daughters Margaret and Mary Ingalls) in the 90s.”

Perhaps it is her own positive experience as a UAB student that makes Dwyer so committed to helping students find their best path forward. But as someone who transferred away from her first college choice, she admits that her first priority has always been to find what is best for the student.

As she gets ready to start a new, student-free chapter of life, Dwyer says she looks forward to reading, traveling, and living life “according to my calendar—not the academic calendar.” 

But she hopes she isn’t entirely devoid of encounters with former students. “Occasionally I will run into former students who will tell me about a specific conversation or a piece of advice I gave them,” Dwyer said. “That’s the best-case scenario…that even if they don’t remember it, something I said made a difference.”