Unsquashable

IT’S ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO BEAT CHEMICAL ENGINEERING PROFESSOR ALI BORHAN ON THE SQUASH COURT. 

Illustration Ali Borhan

IT IS UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED among University Park’s squash regulars that Ali Borhan, professor of chemical engineering, is the uncontested king of the court. “Ali has the speed, endurance, and agility of a young player, combined with the technique and mental discipline of a seasoned veteran,” says education professor Simon Hooper, a longtime opponent. “He’s been number one at Penn State for at least the past 20 years.”

Borhan himself is modest about his abilities: He played competitive soccer and table tennis growing up in Iran, then started playing squash regularly in the late ’90s, after he came to Penn State. “The learning curve for squash is very steep; you have to work really hard to get to a level where you can enjoy the game,” he says. “I like that kind of challenge.”

Pre-pandemic, Borhan played three times a week at lunch-time with a group of faculty members—seasoned players he initially had a tough time beating. He also plays with members of the Penn State Squash Club and serves as the club’s faculty adviser. Along the way, he taught his daughter, Shirin ’16 Eng, now a graduate student in chemical engineering at University Park.

“When she started playing with the Squash Club, she was the only female,” Borhan says. “She had to prove that she was good enough to compete on the all-male traveling team. She is a fierce competitor on the court.” —SI