Purdue Polytechnic Institute Origins

An Evolution of Technology Education at Purdue

OriginsMany administrative decisions and societal events have brought Purdue’s College of Technology to its present form. Although the College of Technology was not formally organized until 1964, the concept of technology education at Purdue has existed since the late 1870s. Under the leadership of Purdue’s third president, Emerson E. White (1876-1883), the University further emphasized program offerings on mechanics arts and sciences in accordance with the statutes of the Morrill Act set forth by the U.S. Congress in 1862.

The College of Technology’s early roots grew from Purdue disciplines focused on applied learning and engineering principles. And the school’s initial composition stems from three major beginnings at Purdue – the Department of Practical Mechanics, the Technical Institute, and the Department of Industrial Education.

Practical Mechanics/Department of Technical and Applied Arts

The Department of Practical Mechanics was established in 1879 and W.F.M. Goss was hired as its department head. By 1882, practical mechanics evolved into a full curriculum in mechanical engineering. By 1890, Purdue engineering grew to include three schools – mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering. Goss then became the first dean of the Purdue Schools of Engineering and faculty member Michael Golden succeeded him as head of practical mechanics.

Practical mechanics peaked in 1910 when a new facility, named after Golden, was built to house the department. It remained strong throughout the 1920s and 1930s and was later absorbed into a new general engineering department in 1938. The program was administered within the School of Industrial Engineering and Management; housed within the School of Industrial Engineering following a separation of management and industrial engineering; and then given its own status as the Department of Technical and Applied Arts.

Technical Institute/Department of Applied Technology

During World War II, Purdue coordinated the federal government’s Engineering Science Management program (ESMWT), under the direction of Professor C.W. Beese. In addition to West Lafayette programs, Beese established centers in all major cities in northern Indiana to administer the program. In 1943, the Division of Technical extension became a formalized administrative unit of the University; during that same year, the Board of Trustees created the Technical Institute and arranged for the awarding of the associate technical aide diploma for completion of a two-year curriculum.

Funding ceased for ESMWT following World War II and the “technical extension” collapsed, except for four locations – Indianapolis, Hammond, Fort Wayne, and Michigan City – establishing the University’s regional campus system. In 1958, Technical Extension was renamed University Extension Council and later that same year a Department of Applied Technology was created within the division. Departments included: aviation technology, nursing, general and applied studies, electrical engineering technology, architectural and civil engineering technology, and industrial and mechanical engineering technology.

OriginsBy 1961, the Department of Applied Technology included eight, two-year technology programs. And instead of the previously awarded diploma in applied technology, students earned associate degrees. The technology programs thrived on the regional campuses. In 1963, the institute took on the administration of a two-year nursing program in the midst of a shortage of registered nurses in Indiana. The regional campuses were the venue to bring the program to other areas of the state. The Department of Nursing later developed into an independent School of Nursing in 1979.

The Grinter Report

In 1955 the Report on Evaluation of Engineering Education concluded that scientifically oriented engineering curricula are essential to prepare engineers who will face new and difficult engineering situations with imagination and competence. This report is commonly referred to as the Grinter report named after the lead author Linton Grinter an engineering professor from the University of Florida and chair of ASEE. The Grinter report advocated that engineering programs provide a dual choice for each undergraduate student of either a scientific or a more pragmatic orientation of their program in engineering. However, most engineering programs were unable to agree with the bifurcation of engineering programs as advocated by the Grinter report. A notable exception was Purdue University where a College of Technology eventually was created in 1964 with programs of study in engineering technology that were pragmatic rather than scientific in nature.

Department of Industrial Education

The Department of Industrial Education was one of the three academic units that comprised the initial School of Technology. Administered by the industrial technology department within the school, the program still maintains ties with the School of Education. Industrial education students today complete coursework within Purdue’s College of Technology and College of Education.

The School of Technology

On July 1, 1963, a proposal was presented for a new undergraduate school that would centralize the University’s applied learning programs into one administrative/academic unit – the School of Technology. The school would be comprised of the Division of Applied Technology departments, the Department of Industrial Education, and the Department of Technical and Applied Arts from the School of Industrial Engineering. On February 15, 1964, the Board of Trustees affirmed the proposal and created the School of Technology effective July 1, 1964, becoming Purdue’s ninth school. The school was renamed College of Technology in January 2005.

Deans of the College of Technology

Charles H. Lawshe 1964 to 1966

George W. McNelly 1966 to 1987

Don K. Gentry 1987 to 2001

Fred Emshousen - Interim Dean 2001 to 2002

Dennis R. Depew 2002 to 2011

Gary Bertoline 2011 to present