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Collection Overview

Historical Note

Scope and Content Note


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Title:College of Engineering records
Dates:n.d., 1911–2008
Call Number:A15

Historical Note

The College of Engineering traces its origin to the Evening Institute of the Boston YMCA, which  began offering cooperative day courses in engineering in 1909.  The program, which offered "sound training in both the theoretical and practical principles upon which professional practice is based," began with eight students, four part–time instructors, and four cooperating businesses.  By the time the first class graduated in 1913, enrollment had grown to 110 students, new classroom and laboratory facilities were in use, and cooperative student employees were in high demand.  The major advantage to the cooperative program was that it provided educational opportunity for "men of excellent mental ability but of limited means who might otherwise have been unable to obtain an engineering education."      

The early years of the engineering program were filled with change and expansion.   When Northeastern College was incorporated in 1916, the program officially became the School of Engineering.  In 1920, the Massachusetts Legislature authorized Northeastern to grant bachelor of engineering degrees in chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering.  In 1922, the institution was renamed Northeastern University. A full–time engineering program was originated in the day school the same year. The full–time program retained the cooperative aspect with which the institution was founded, requiring the equivalent of two years of practical experience for all of its students.  Another change came in 1925, when administrative engineering was added to the original four departments.  It was renamed the Department of Industrial Engineering in 1928.


In the mid–1930s, the concept of accreditation by outside organizations that had developed minimum standards began to take prominence in the academic world.  In 1935, the College of Engineering degree was accredited by the State of New York as a prerequisite to engineering graduates practicing in that state.  The next step was approval by the newly formed Engineers' Council for Professional Development (ECPD), which inspected individual programs.


Initially, the College of Engineering was not accredited by the ECPD.  The organization felt that Northeastern's program was too short and the school had inadequate laboratory facilities.  The ECPD also questioned the university's affiliation with the YWCA.  In response the College of Engineering lengthened its program to five years and formed the Northeastern University Corporation with an independent Board of Trustees.  The issue of laboratory facilities was more problematic.  In 1936 the university occupied rented quarters and one laboratory was housed at the bottom of an elevator shaft.  Despite the Depression, money was raised to build Richards Hall which opened in 1938 and housed engineering laboratories.  The following year the ECPD accepted the civil, mechanical, electrical, and industrial engineering programs.  Accreditation of the chemical engineering program was achieved in 1941, after the university constructed yet another laboratory building.


The next step in expanding and improving the engineering program was the addition of graduate level courses in 1948.  The initial offering of non–degree graduate courses was expanded two years later to include courses leading to master's of science degrees.  The cooperative plan of education was adapted to graduate study in 1956.  In 1958, the Graduate School of Engineering was formed and recommendation for creation of the program's first doctoral degrees soon followed.  Between 1961 and 1965, doctoral degrees were approved in the electrical, chemical, and mechanical engineering programs.


Expansion in the graduate program was accompanied by a similar expansion in research.  Though the university's first grant–funded research program was initiated in 1945, the college of engineering did not participate in sponsored research programs until 1948.  In this year, the Department of Electrical Engineering received support for four projects from the Air Force Cambridge Research Center.  As a result, the department recruited Northeastern's first full–time research professor, Dr. Sze–Hou Chang.  In the coming years the Department of Electrical Engineering attracted the majority of the university's research funding.  Grants from the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare were received in addition to the original Air Force grants.  These grants were used to sponsor ongoing studies in communication theory, as well as research in plasma physics, complex systems, and the characteristics of larynx signals.  The establishment of the Dana Research Center in 1967 marked the university's first building devoted exclusively to research.  The building's construction, supported largely by a grant from the National Science Foundation, housed both physics and electrical engineering research facilities. 

In the midst of this expansion in graduate studies and research, Northeastern reached a milestone.  The year 1960 marked the fiftieth anniversary of cooperative education and the College of Engineering.  By this time it had become the largest undergraduate engineering program in New England. In the coming decade, many specialized programs would be added to the engineering curriculum.  One of these was biomedical engineering technology, which combined courses in engineering and the life sciences.  An associate's degree in bioelectronics engineering technology was approved in 1963, and biomedical engineering became a full–fledged department by 1969.  Power systems engineering, part of the Department of Electrical Engineering, was another emerging field.  An environmental option was also added to the civil engineering program during the late 1960s, with the introduction of a Ph.D in the environmental field in 1970.


During the 1970s, the programs began to change in response to advances in computer technology.  The Graphic Science Department, a non–degree granting program, had for years provided core courses in technical drawing. As computer–aided drafting developed, this program was merged with the Industrial Engineering Department.  These two programs became the Department of Industrial Engineering and Information Systems in 1977.  The computer industry also influenced the electrical engineering field and in 1982, the Department of Electrical Engineering became the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  The college now still offers special programs, such as biomedical engineering, the Women in Engineering program, and Northeastern University Progress in Minority Engineering (NUPRIME). 


The Center for Electromagnetics Research is another example of the College of Engineering's attempts to respond to the demands of rapidly changing technologies.  The center was dedicated in 1984, the College of Engineering's 75th anniversary year.  Funded by the National Science Foundation and national industrial sponsors, the center has emphasized a cross–disciplinary  approach to engineering research. The Center for Communications and Digital Signal Processing followed in 1988.  Both of these centers are directed by faculty of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  


Snell Engineering Center, opened in 1984, is the current home of the College of Engineering. The Egan Research Center, dedicated in 1996, holds laboratory facilities for engineering, physics, chemistry and computer science research.  Partially funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, the center has increased by fifty percent the on–campus space allotted for research.
Chronology of Deans
1909–1917  Hercules W. Geromanos
1917–1940  Carl S. Ell
1940–1945  William C. White (Acting Dean 1940–1943)
1945–1961 William T. Alexander
1953–1954Alfred J. Ferreti (Acting Dean)
1961–1966  Ronald E. Scott
1966–1967 William F. King (Interim Dean)
1967–1979  Melvin Mark
1979–1981  Thomas E. Hulbert (Acting Dean)
1981–1986  Harold Lurie
1986–1996  Paul H. King
1997– 2006     Allen L. Soyster
2007–2012David E. Luzzi
2012–Nadine Aubry

"50th Anniversary: College of Engineering and Cooperative Education," 1960. (Box 17, Folder 265)

"...a Commitment to the Future," 1985.  (Box 18, Folder 285)

Frederick, Antoinette.  Northeastern University: An Emerging Giant: 1959–1975.  Boston:  Northeastern University Custom Book Program, c. 1982. CALL NUMBER: LD4011.N22F7X

––Northeastern University, Coming of Age: The Ryder Years, 1975–1989.  Boston:  Northeastern University, c. 1995.  CALL NUMBER:  4011.N22F732

Marston, Everett C.  Origin and Development of Northeastern 1898–1960.  Boston:  Northeastern University Press, c. 1961. CALL NUMBER: LD4011.N22M3

Publication Note

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