Engineering Historical Collections

50 Years: Great Moments in Engineering Education

Commemorating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the UMass Amherst College of Engineering. Did you know…

Commemorating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the UMass Amherst College of Engineering

Did you know that…

In May of 1947, the name of Massachusetts State College was changed by legislative action to the University of Massachusetts.

In September of 1947, a School of Engineering was established. There were 16 faculty hired. To accommodate the surge of veterans at that time, classes were conducted at two locations; 120 students enrolled on the campus, but the bulk of engineering students received their first two years of instruction at Fort Devens.

The first designated engineering degree to be awarded was a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering in 1950 to Mr. Antonio Ferreira.

After 20 years of service on campus, Miss Della E. Brownell became head secretary to the first Dean of the College, George A. Marston, in 1947. She continued her tenure, also assisting Dean Kenneth G. Picha until her retirement on March 1, 1969. Della was well known for her frequent use of the germicide spray bottle. Mrs. Oretta Taylor (better known as Mrs. T.) joined the School of Engineering in 1964 and served as head secretary to six deans (or acting deans) until retiring on January 31, 1989. Mrs. Taylor is best remembered as the “First Lady” of the School of Engineering.

The first head of the Chemical Engineering Department was E. Ernest Lindsey (1952). Merit P. White was the first department head of Civil Engineering (1947). In 1948, Robert R. Brown became the first department head of Electrical Engineering. Maurice E. Bates was the first department head of Mechanical Engineering (1947). Industrial Engineering separated from the Mechanical Engineering Department in 1966 to become its own department, led by Richard W. Trueswell, the first department head.

Radio station WMUA, managed by university students, was originally located on the gorund floor of the newly built wing (1955) of Marston Hall. In 1983, the station was moved to 105 Campus Center.

The Engineering Library Opened in 1955. It was located on the second floor of the new main Engineering Building, with Josephine Tudryn overlooking the books; while students, donating their time, covered the evening hours. Then, two part-time secretaries, Joanne Grady and Myrtle Blanchard, were responsible for the library. Margaret Kiley became the full-time librarian in September of 1957 and continued until the library’s closing in September of 1970, when it was relocated to the Physical sciences Library.

Tau Beta Pi was established on this campus as the Massachusetts Zeta Chapter in February of 1956, under the direction of its advisors, Professors John Dittfach and Karl Hendrickson. It was the 99th such chapter to be established in this country. Twenty-three charter members were intitiated into Massachusetts Zeta on January 7, 1956. In addition, two outstanding engineers, Dean Marston and Dr. White of the university’s engineering school, 17 alumni of the University of Massachusetts Amherst who had been members of the local society, and 12 students of the School of Engineering became Tau Bates at the installation.

A transportation grant was awarded in 1972 to Professor Paul Shuldiner of the Civil Engineering Department and professor William Goss of the Mechanical Engineering Department to implement a transit system for the Amherst area and a study of the effects of this system involving the university community. Ten 30-foot twin coaches were purchased in 1973. The design seen on the buses through the 1990s was the original design created by Stella Schoenhut, a textile designer from Leverett, Massachusetts.

The first concrete canoe built in 1972 by Civil Engineering students and led by Simon Bunyard was christened by Head Secretary R. Irene Clark at the Campus Pond. The students solicited area businesses for financial support. ASCE chapter students built their first concrete canoe in 1975 under the direction of Professor Denton Harris and named it “The Porcupine.” It was enetered in a race in Bangor, Maine.

During the 1970s, Irene Clark organized the School of Engineering’s “12 to 1” group, which met during brown-bag lunches in support of classified staff needs. The group’s motto on one occasion was, “Raises Not Roses.” While at work in 1981, Iren Clark saved the life of one employee who was having a convulsion by administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the EMTs arrived. At another time, she was summoned to the aid of Merit White, recognized the signs of a slight stroke, and called an ambulance. She earned the unofficial title “Nurse” of the School of Engineering.

Professor John E. Ritter coordinated the newly instituted Minority Engineering Program in 1973. In 1975, Mr. Kenneth R. Smikle was appointed the first permanent staff person within the Minority Engineering Program.

The VIP program originated in 1974, when a grant was awarded to the School of Engineering by the Digital Equipment Corporation, which was spearheaded by Andrew Knowles.

Doris T. (Grimes) Preston, 1958 B.S. ChE graduate from UMass Amherst, was the first advisor of SWE, the Society of Women Engineers, which was established at the School of Engineering in 1977.

In 1987, the former storage building once called “Gurski Hall” was approved to be named Duda Hall, both in recognition of Francis G. (Bugsy) Duda’s long service to the college (more than 50 years) and in recognition of all the technicians and staff (past, present, and future) who make such a contribution and so ably serve the College of Engineering.

Larry Cook, Frank Duda, and Ollie Press, all technicians with the School of Engineering, were often referred to as “Kukla, Fran, and Ollie,” after a television puppet show of the same name in the early 1950s.