ngineering Building

Engineering grew at Bucknell in the thirty years from 1915 to 1945. In 1915, the engineering departments were scattered across the campus and located in different buildings. By 1945, the departments had been gathered together in the Engineering Building, and enrollments that had been rising steadily throughout the war were about to increase rapidly because of the G.I. Bill.

Major Changes in Engineering from 1918 to 1940

Major changes began in 1920. In that year, the Trustees had approved the expenditure of $1,700.00 for the Mechanical Engineering laboratory, and $1,555,00 for the Electrical Engineering laboratory. They also appropriated $325.00 for Surveying. It was evident that new facilities were needed for engineering and in 1920, the Treasurer of the Board of Trustees was authorized "…to borrow a sum not exceeding $100,000.00 for the construction of the first wing of the Engineering Building. In 1921, construction began on the first wing (to the far left in the photograph), which was completed in March 1922. The wing was built by Professor Frank E. Burpee, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, and his force of campus workmen. Benjamin Wilson, Instructor in Mechanical Engineering, was in charge of the installation of the equipment. The installation was so well done that no changes were made for over ten years. The first wing was primarily for the use of the Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering Departments.The Civil Engineering Department moved into the building from the basement of East College. The Chemical and Electrical Engineering Departments continued to be housed in the basements of other buildings. A change in the engineering curriculum occurred in 1928 when all of the engineering departments revised the curricula that lead to the bachelor's degree.

Major changes continued during the 1930's. In 1935, the engineering professors elected Dr. George Irland as Chairman of the Engineering Group to coordinate the four engineering departments, and the following year a delegation of chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineers, which represented the Engineers Council for Professional Development "…spent a day at Bucknell, inspecting its buildings and equipment, with a view of making an accredited list of Class 'A' schools." The Council was inspecting all the engineering schools in the United States. In 1937, the Council gave a two-year accreditation to the Civil and Electrical Engineering Departments, but did not accredit the Chemical and Mechanical Engineering Departments. The same year, the Trustees authorized President Marts "to 'open the books'…for gifts for the final wing of the Engineering Building." The following year, President Marts told the Trustees that the completion of the Engineering Building were a necessity because "…unless we could have all these departments accredited students would cease to come to Bucknell for Engineering." He also informed the Trustees that Mr. Daniel C. Roberts had contributed 3,000 shares of Woolworth Company stock to the fund for the Engineering Building. At the end of the December meeting of the Trustees in 1938, President Marts reported "…an additional gift of $100,000.00 during August by our Honorary Chairman, Dr. Daniel C. Roberts, toward the Engineering Building, which completed the Fund needed for the construction of the building," and stated "that he had assurances that full accreditment [sic] would be given to the Engineering Courses at Bucknell with completion of this building." On September 29, 1938, the ground-breaking ceremony was held for the two new wings, and in 1939 the Civil, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Departments received accreditation from the Engineer's Council for Professional Development.

Completion of the Engineering Building in 1940

In September 1940, the U-shaped structure was completed. Jens Larson was the architect and the Sordoni Construction Company was the contractor. It housed the four engineering departments. Offices and classrooms were located in the central portion; laboratories and drawing rooms were located mainly in the two wings and on the ground floor. The top floor of the north wing (to the left) was used as an art studio. One of the rooms in the building contained a model of the future campus that had been made by Jens Larson in 1932.

The Second World War, 1940-1945

In the fall of 1940, 86 freshmen were enrolled in the Engineering Department in contrast to 56 the previous year. Vice-President Rivenburg thought that this was "perhaps due to war time conditions and the new Engineering Building." The Second World War was beginning to have an impact upon engineering. In the summer of 1941, at the request of the federal government, the Engineering Department offered a Defense Training course from June 23 to August 29. In the 1941-42 Academic Year, 256 students were enrolled in the Engineering Department the first semester and there were "more applications coming in than ever before." That same year, Bucknell adopted an "accelerated program" that allowed an engineering student "to complete his college course in two and two-thirds years." In December 1942, Rivenburg reported that, "More students enrolled in Engineering this year than ever before, almost one-half of the men in the freshmen class." At the same time, he announced that the American Institute of Chemical Engineers had accredited the Chemical Engineering Department. In 1943, the Vice-President "…pointed out the marked trend this year, because of war conditions, toward mathematics, physics, chemistry and engineering…and indicated that with the coming of the Navy men and the great decrease in civilian male students, the trend toward engineering, mathematics and physics will be greater." That same year, the Trustee Committee on Instruction recommended "…that authorization be given the administration to employ an additional man in Civil Engineering, in Electrical Engineering, in Mechanical Engineering and in Mathematics, if, as, and when needed for the Naval College Training Program." The "marked trend toward mathematics, physics and engineering subjects" continued throughout 1944.

Towards the end of the Second World War, the 1944-1945 Catalogue contained a description of two “two-year technical courses especially for veterans” that were offered in engineering: the “Course In Highways and Airports: Design, Construction, and Maintenance” and the “Course in Industrial Training.”

These technical courses [were] offered for the purpose of assisting members of the armed forces and displaced war workers in finding regular employment in the post-war industrial world. Training [was] provided in either of ]the] two specialized technical fields, and a Certificate of Proficiency [was] awarded upon the completion of either course.

The entrance requirements for these courses [were] the same as the entrance requirements for the regular four-year engineering courses. The quality of work [was] of college level.

A student who [desired] to change from [the] course [in Highways and Airports] to one leading to a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering [was able] do so at the end of one college year without loss of credit.

These two courses were not listed the following year in the 1945-1946 Catalogue where only the four-year degree courses were included.

The Engineering Curricula and Enrollment in 1945

In 1945, the degree requirements for the four programs in engineering were different from those of others areas in the College. While other degrees required “one hundred and twenty-four semester hours” of coursework “...each candidate for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Chemical, Civil, Electrical or Mechanical Engineering [was] required to complete one hundred and forty-six semester hours, six hours of which [were] scheduled in the Summer Term.” The curricula of the engineering programs did not embody the same Lower Division requirements of the College that were “...designed to give through survey and other courses the foundation of a broad cultural education” nor was a foreign language required for the engineering degrees, although chemical engineers “planning to take graduate work” were advised to “...include at least a year of German.” The Catalogue described the engineering curricula:

The normal engineering curricula cover four years. The work of the freshman year is common to all, and the sophomore and junior years are devoted mainly to the mastery of basic courses in mathematics, science and engineering. In the senior year most of the student’s work is concerned with the principles of his chosen branch of engineering.

By 1945, an imbalance had developed between the “cultural and technical courses” taken for the undergraduate degree in engineering. This was one reason for the development of the five-year programs in engineering.

While the four-year curricula give adequate training for entering into engineering work in industry, and for advancing into the professional field, some student will find it advisable to spend five years in securing the Bachelor’s Degree. Five-year programs (with one summer session) may be arranged to meet the needs of the following three groups: those who desire additional work in mathematics and other technical subjects, those who wish to broaden their education by including more cultural courses, and those who desire work in a supplementary field such as commerce and finance.

Enrollment in the engineering curricula grew rapidly when the veterans entered colledge as a consequance of the GI Bill.

Enrollment in Engineering, 1945-1946

For the November Term in 1945, 110 students were enrolled in engineering degree programs, of whom103 were male. For the first semester of the 1946-47 academic year, 490 students were enrolled in engineering programs, of whom 484 were male and six were female. Of these 490 students, 412 were male veterans. In 1945, ten percent of the undergraduate students were engineering students. In 1946, twenty-five percent of the undergraduate students were engineering students, and thirty-five percent of veterans were enrolled in engineering curricula.

The building was constructed on part of the 170-acre tract, which had been added to the campus in 1920 when the University purchased the George Barron Miller Farm at a cost of $55,000.00. The first wing of the Engineering Building was the first building to be constructed on this land. Vaughan Literature building was the second. In 1945, parking spaces for automobiles were located in front of the engineering building.

"...to borrow a sum..."BT '82-'20, p. 379 (6/15/1920)

"..spent a day..." ib., 7/6/1936, p. 2

" to 'open the books'..." ib., 4/3/1937, p. 4

"...unless we could have..." ib., 6/11/1938, p. 2

"that he had assurances..." ib., 12/17/1938, p.6

"perhaps due to..." ib., 12/21/1940, p. 1

"more applications coming..."and "to complete his college..." ib., 5/23/1942, p. 2

"More students enrolled in..." ib., 12/19/1943, p. 2

"...pointed out the maked..."ib., 5/28/1942, p. 4

"...that authorization be given..." ib., 5/28/1943, p. 7

"the marked trend toward..." ib., 6/24/1944, p. 2

"two-year technical coursess..." CAT '44-'45, p. 53

"These technical course..."and the following paragraphs in the insert, ib.

"...each candidate for the degree" CAT '45-'46, p. 42

"...designed to give through..." ib., p. 41

"planning to take..." and "...include at least,,," ib., p. 60

"The normal engineering curricula..." ib., p. 59

"cultural and technical courses" ib., p. 60

"While the four-year curricula give..." ib., p. 59

The major source for the information on this page is the Minutes of the Board of Trustees of Bucknell University, 1920-1950 (BT '20-'50). Additional sources are Memorials of Bucknell University, 1919-1931 (MBU '19-'31); records from the Bucknell Registrar's office; and the Bucknell University Bulletin, Catalogue Issue, Ninety-Ninth Year, 1944-1945 (CAT '44-'45) and the Bucknell University Bulletin, Catalogue Issue, One Hundredth Year, January, 1946 (CAT '45-'46).

This building in other years: 1965 | 1985 | Current
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